School had been in session for a few days and we were ready to start reader’s/writer’s workshop. How do you choose a book? I pose this question to my students, with a picture of a woman staring at a large bookshelf filled with books.
Hands start going up. I find books by my favorite author, says one. My friend is an avid reader, so I ask her what she’s reading. That’s how I get so many good recommendations, says another. My favorite genre is fantasy, so I look for that sticker on the spine, chimes in one more.
How many of you have a what-to-read-next list? About 1/3 of the class raises their hand.
How many of you have a hard time reading a book that isn’t by your favorite author or a genre you really enjoy?
Most of the students raise their hands.
Have you ever thought about what life would be like without books? Many give me a puzzled look. It’s then that I show them this video from StoryCorps. It’s powerful and all about books and learning. It leads to a rich discussion on why books matter.
Okay, I say. Today is for you. Four books are neatly piled in the center of your table. Your job is to read each one for a bit and write down some notes about it. Good readers have lists of books they want to read next. They feel bad that their list keeps growing and they can’t seem to catch up. Your goal today is to walk out of the class with a book in mind to read next.
The books I chose were carefully selected. High-interest books, various complexity level, variety of genres. Students read each book for 5 minutes and then complete a few questions about the book before grabbing the next book to read. My goal is to turn my students into readers–voracious readers. By the end of the school year, students will have read at least 15 books, in various genres, besides the required readings of poems, short stories, and novels we do in class. Some students look at me skeptically. It’s that I-haven’t-read-a-full-book-on-my-own-since-elementary-school-and-you-can’t-make-me-read look. Those students have become my personal challenge. I challenge myself to find a book they will love, and I challenge them to not want to read it.
Today is an easier day. We’re reading, sharing, and talking. When students walk out the door, many will write down titles of books they want to read in the near future. Some will still be thinking about maybe writing a title down. And a few will take me up on the challenge. But that’s okay. I have a survey on their reading, will conference with them about likes/dislikes (and the survey they completed), and book talk high interest novels. They will all get there.
If you’d like the template I use for speed dating, you can find it here. If you have any tips for helping reluctant readers, I’d love to hear it. And for continuing to push the voracious ones. Happy teaching.