Sunday, July 29, 2012

A School of Readers

When I first came to Tiny Town High, students didn't read.  They tried to fake every book report I ever assigned.  There was no common language of books that "everyone" seemed to be reading.  It was frustrating.

Now when students finish their work, they pull out a book and read.  I frequently find myself saying, "Could you please put your book away and get ready for class?"  (And I hate myself!)  Books like Hunger Games or City of Glass or Columbine have been in high demand.  It is awesome!

Why the change?  I think there are several reasons.

1.  Authors like J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Christopher Paolini, and Suzanne Collins have created high interest reading materials for a whole generation of kids. They get sucked in, find out how much fun reading can be, and continue the quest for books to read and love.

2. Our school created a reading community, by adding a daily "advisory" time into our schedule.  Four days a week, students and teachers are to be reading.  (The 5th day is set aside for meetings, unless a kid doesn't have meetings-- and then they are reading.)

3.  We adopted the Accelerated Reader program.  (I know this is controversial.  Some schools hate it.)  Students must read books, take quizzes over those books, and earn 25 AR points per nine weeks.  It counts as a grade in their English classes, so that gives the use of the program some weight.  We don't require that they read at a certain level of difficulty, just that they read.  With over 10,000 titles to choose from, there is little chance that they "can't find anything to read."

4.  Our librarian is immersed in young adult literature.  She is great at suggesting books that will interest the kids.  (She has them tell her the hobbies, activities, movies they love, television shows they watch, and other books they have loved.  She can always find a book to match their interest and reading levels.)  She gives book talks about current books.  The books fly off the shelves.

5. I've created a classroom library.  (And I'm not the only one.)  I find out what books the librarian can't keep on the shelf, purchase them, and add them to my library. Students frequently wander into my room and ask for a particular title.  Last spring, a student donated some current favorites because her family was moving, and she didn't want to pack them.

6.  Reading is contagious.  Teachers discuss books they are reading.  (Not just English teachers!  Our chemistry teachers is one of the most avid readers in our school.)  If a student has read one book a teacher recommends, they frequently go back for another recommendation.  We can discuss current books that are making their way around our school.  (Students encouraging students to read!  Who knew?!)

7.  Signs are posted on classroom doors about a teacher's current reading or favorite book.  Contests are sponsored through the library.  Tickets for treats are hidden in books.  Online trivia contests over popular books might result in a dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies or tickets to the movies.

No, not every student loves reading; however, the majority of our students read willingly and will gladly share a book they love.  Our reading test scores have soared.

I love Tiny Town High.  Most of the kids speak my language:  books!

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