Thursday, July 7, 2016

Singing a New Song

I know with many of my posts I am just preaching to the choir because many of my readers and I share the same beliefs.  This post is no different.  As Donalyn  Miller often says, "You preach to the choir because you want the choir to be loud."

But what about those teachers who do not know how to sing?

Last year I was having a conversation with an elementary teacher about independent reading in my classroom.  I teach in a district that uses Accelerated Reader, but she knows I do not like the program.  She asked me "If you don't do AR, how do you get kids to read?"

That's when I realized this teacher is one of those who did not know how to sing. Sadly, I think many more are just like her.  They have become so dependent on a program, they no longer remember "the words" or maybe even have a voice.

Today I am answering that question with a simplistic, yet multi-faceted answer.

By living a literate life.
  1. I read the books my students read so I am better prepared to recommend titles to them.  Building reading relationships with students is built upon my knowledge of books.  Throughout the school year, our relationships move from teacher to student, to reader to reader.  They trust me to give them suggestions, and they trust our conversations.
  2. I share my reading life.  I set a yearlong challenge for myself, and they see when I struggle with a book or struggle to find time to read.  Students get to know my preferences, and they know when I laugh, when I cry and when I abandon a book.
  3. I have a well-stocked classroom library where books are within the reach of my students.  School libraries are essential to developing a reading culture, but quickly handing and suggesting books to students "in the moment" is even more important.  
  4. I talk about books.  I talk about the books I am reading, I talk about the books they are reading, and they talk about the books they are reading.  Reading is a social activity, and it deserves a place at the discussion table.
  5. I value independent reading.  I give my students time each day in class to read books of their choice.  I have 48 minute periods, but those 10 minutes we read have become nonnegotiable  I have this quote by Donalyn Miller posted outside my room.
A place where "all readers are valued

and all reading is valuable." 

It is not a program that creates readers.  It is the teacher who lives a literate life.  This past year my 100 students, which is one half of a grade level, read over 2,400 books. We read more books than each of the 7th or 8th grade classes.  We did it without a program.  

Because I know I am preaching to the choir, my goal is for you to share this with a teacher who has forgotten how to sing.  Teach them the words to a new song, so our choir can lift our voices for everyone to hear.

Our students deserve it.


  1. These are the best ways to get students to read. They definitely take more time than using a program, such as AR, but it's well worth it. We want students to be readers for a lifetime, not just when they can get points for taking an AR quiz.

  2. Thank you for living a literate life!

  3. Our school does AR, but my sixth grade daughter had a teacher last year who opted out. Instead of taking quizzes, they had conversations about books. Best year ever!

  4. Very well said. Keep preaching on.

  5. I've been thinking a lot this summer about the number of teachers in my school that are NOT readers. It makes me really, really sad. I keep reading, keep sharing books, etc., but it definitely feels like an uphill battle!

  6. Yes! I too am amazed at the teachers that think they need a "program." Keep up the great work! You are creating a culture of lifelong readers. No program, especially AR, can do that!