The very fist student day of school, Deb Gaby (the reading coach in my school district) and I stumbled upon a meeting between 5th and 6th grade language arts teachers. They were discussing how to help students want to read. Deb and I slipped into the conversation. I was struck because these teachers are quite skilled at helping students become readers. They have a passion for reading that’s contagious.
Yet, here on the first day of school, they were meeting because they felt their students (in the past couple of years) had lost their passion for reading. Our quick discussion led us to defining a weekly meeting time and a quest to answer the question: How can our middle school students keep their love for reading?
Four weeks in and we are still meeting with an energy that is genuine and an excitement that is real. The teachers are remembering how they “grow readers” and their passion is contagious — not only to their students, but to their colleagues, and to me too. Sometimes in the quest to do the right thing and follow mandates and standards, we forget the heart of what we do — we love readers.
As coaches, we aren’t pushing the teachers to do anything new. Rather, we are reminding them of their core beliefs. We are nudging them to reflect on their practice and whether it aligns with their objective: To grow readers.
The “results” have been energizing. They are working to get to know their 100+ readers. They are stoking their passion and allowing it to take over their teaching. They have also started book talks again. (This is something they quit doing a few years ago because they felt it took too much time) They’ve vowed to keep the book talks short (a couple of minutes) and have started inviting students to talk about books too. It’s nothing formal, but it is a powerful habit to establish. To Read lists have been established in notebooks and students have started a habit of collecting titles in their notebooks. They are building reading lives and feel like their teaching is making a difference.
I think it is too easy to blow by establishing reading habits for our students in the name of time or standards or test prep. However, when we rush past establishing the habits of readers, we run the risk of students losing their reading passion. When this happens they often develop fake reading habits and then then time is wasted and the standards become impossible to meet and the test prep is rote.
Take time today to establish the habit of being a reader. (On Friday I’ll write about about developing some habits of being a writer.)
8 thoughts on “Book Talkin’”
I had a conversation today regarding reading habits. A veteran teacher and I were rethinking rushing through these important September mini lessons and book talks because even though the students have had these lessons in earlier grades we need to reinforce reading habits as they grow!
All I can say is Amen! I remind myself of this every year, and then get swept up in the whirlwind as the year goes on. Thanks!
I was just wondering about this in a discussion w/ someone on my blog about reading memories: do the standardized test pressure of today leave less time for reading in the classroom. My 8th grade English teacher devoted every Friday to reading. A lot of kids hated it, but I loved it. Still, even for the kids who didn’t like it, I think it was a good experience for them- as you said, making reading a habit is a great goal.
I don’t know why, but I am always amazed at the power of a book talk. Every time I mention a book, it flies off the shelf and has a waiting list. I try to do it once or twice a week, but I think I could do it every day!
I too have a passion for creating readers, and I’ve abandoned a few of my favorite practices. Perhaps that is why I, too, am seeing a decline in reading passion from my students. I’m moving my bag of summer reading and my bag of books I wanted to read, but didn’t get to this summer to the top of my stairs. I’ll make sure to share my bags today (day 2). Ruth, it would be wonderful to hear from these middle school teachers in a future guest post.
We show book trailers every Friday–both in our classrooms and I put them on the video announcements for the whole school. Many kids have purchased/signed out books after seeing the trailer.
I plan to increase my number of book talks this year as well. David, where do you get your book trailers? Are you putting them on a website I can access and show my students?
I completely agree, Ruth. It’s so important to take slow down and take time to cultivate habits. Thank you for sharing this affirmation of good teaching.
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