Friday, 12 January 2018

Thinking about Reading, Part 2

Since returning after winter break, I'm pretty sure I said out loud, at least four times, "I've been doing some thinking about reading." And finally, people decided to talk about reading with me! Discussions with various people have helped to shape and clarify (and complicate) my thoughts, and I am hopeful that people will have additional ideas to share with me. (Hint.)

I have been pondering various questions, in an attempt to clarify my thinking about reading.

What is my overall goal?

Students who read because they WANT to, not because they have to.

Why do I want students to read for pleasure?
  • Reading frequently improves reading skills.
  • Reading frequently improves writing skills.
  • Reading allows students an opportunity to escape into another world.
  • Reading allows students to build empathy for others' experiences.
  • Reading allows students to build community and connection with other readers.
  • Reading allows students to understand themselves.

How can I force students to read for pleasure?

This is tricky. It is hard to get some students to read for assignments or marks, so why would they read for pleasure? But I think that is part of the problem. There is pressure to do something, often artificial or contrived, with the book. Students have to prove that they read the book. It takes the joy out of reading. I know that we try to give students a choice in their reading, via the ISU, but students still often don't enjoy reading their chosen book, plus we put a bunch of parameters on what they are allowed to read. It is just a hoop they have to jump through..."get through these books then I never have to read again."

I know some schools have enforced reading time, such as STAR (Stop Talking and Read) or DEAR (Drop Everything and Read). In my limited experience, these programs haven't been very successful. But this also tells me that maybe my thoughts about enforcing (encouraging?) reading in my classroom are unrealistic. Except that Pernille Ripp, a grade 7 teacher in the United States, has great success in rekindling reading in her students. (Obviously things would need to be adapted to fit the high school context.) Ripp shares that to get students to read for pleasure we need to give them time, we need to give them access to lots of books, we need to demonstrate ourselves as readers, we need to let them abandon books, and we need to let them book shop.

What am I envisioning?

If I want students to read, I need to give them class time to read. If it is something I value, then it deserves to be part of my valuable class time. I want a reading and talking about books classroom. Additionally, I'm not going to force them to do something with their reading. The success comes from them reading. I will see them reading. I will have conversations with them about their reading or lack thereof. That's my proof.

So how am I going to work towards creating a reading classroom?
  • 15 minutes every day of reading
  • Discuss my journey as a reader
  • Allow book abandoning
  • Have tons* of books available in my classroom
  • Create book buzz 
  • Have opportunities to book shop
  • Do a reading challenge 
Creating a reading class room is my new preoccupation, and to be honest, I am feeling a lot of discomfort about actually implementing this. 


*To be honest, I'll probably only have 100 or so books...I'm relying on bringing in my own library and what I can scavenge from the book room. I know this is's what Mrs. Le likes to read, but I'm going to work on expanding it. (I can be pretty resourceful.)


  1. What about inviting other readers ( us who love to read) to share what we're reading? Maybe a guest spot, a book talk, a written response or blog post, some way for others ( teachers or staff they know) sharing and modelling the love of reading? Maybe staff fill out a "what are you reading" survey and the "assignment" would be for students to find out, discover why that staff member is enjoying what they are reading? As you said people love to talk about and promote their passions and it might expand your list of what's available. I don't know what it would look like but I think of the staff who went and joined Landry's class and participated in student seminars. I think we have many staff who could and would contribute in some way and would be excellent role models for the love of reading.

    1. I really like this idea - getting other staff to share what they enjoy. You could have a couple students a week be 'responsible' for updating a "this is what Westside staff are reading" type board in your class. It's so important for staff/students to connect beyond curriculum.

    2. Thank you for the suggestions, De and Lisa. As I plan my strategy, I'm going to include your ideas.

      I think that I am going to do this with just my ENG1Ds, not my ENG3Cs. I think I'll be more comfortable starting with one class instead of three. And if it's a failure, then at least I only have to face it once a day instead of three times!

  2. I think there are lots of social aspects too. I admire Penny Kittle for some of the same reasons you're into Pernille Ripp. She has students visibly display how much they're reading in class. Students in the library who love to read love to brag about how much they read. This has merit. But would it work for non-readers? YES! Students who have read the entire 25 volumes of The Walking Dead graphic novels LOVE to brag! There's also all the social media sites available (you know I'm a Goodreads fan). We've tried two things at ODSS with some success with staff. 1 was a wipe off poster that teachers hung on their classroom doors or blackboard that they changed whenever they switched books that said "RIght now I'm reading....". I still do this on my desk in the library. Also we have tried these super-cute mugs that have chalkboard paint on them that says: "Right now I'm reading..." What are ways we can increase staff chatter about reading? Dare I club? Online book club? Shout out to the TeachOntario PD book clubs happening all the time! . We have Forest of Reading book clubs, we have #UGReads....what if we did something between schools, across the board, across the province, across the globe... Online AND face-to-face. (With wine and chocolate, of course.)

  3. I recently started to read Penny Kittle's book. I wonder about starting a display. Currently students are keeping track in their binders, but I can easily make it visible. Thank you for sharing so many ideas.