One morning this week as I was walking down the hall to my classroom, two teachers stopped to tease me about a comment I made at our faculty meeting the day before. I had asked our principal if students could just stay on the computers after our practice test session instead of reading. They all know my passion for reading, and thought this was quite the oxymoron.
In our conversation, one teacher mentioned how much her students hated to read. She looked at me and said, "Well, you had them last year, so you know what I mean."
The conversation ended, and I continued down to my room.
Then I stopped.
And I thought to myself, "What do you mean these students hate to read?" These same students I had last year who read over 2,400 books? My one half of an entire grade level who read more books than each of the total 7th and 8th grades?
This is a problem.
What happens after students leave my classroom? Why do kids read in 6th grade, but drop off in 7th and 8th grade?
Maybe a better question is, What do I do in my classroom that motivates kids to read? What do I do that is different from what they do? I am not in their classroom, and I don't know how they motivate kids to read. But I do know how I have been successful.
I talk about books. I have conversations about books with my current students, as well as my former students, every day. I have a segment on our morning show where I feature books to our entire school. I celebrate other students' reading lives by having them on as guests. Reading must be part of our conversations and our relationships with students if we want them to read.
Students have easy access to books in my classroom library. Spending my own money on books is not something I want to do, but it is something I need to do. Before our spring break, the librarian sent out an overdue book lists. Out of the 132 overdue books, I had three. Most of my students find books in our own library. When a student needs a book, it is much easier for them to find one in our classroom. Plus, it is easier for me to match kids with books when they are easily available.
I make time to read. I try to start my class every day with 10 minutes of independent reading time. When a person values something, they make time for it.
I expect students to read. My students know I expect them to read two hours a week. I let them manage their time by not requiring daily reading, but weekly reading instead. Middle school students' schedules are busy, and I understand that being flexible is key to motivation. But that is the expectation, and students will rise to the expectation which is set.
I share my literacy life. Students need to have literacy role models in their lives. Having a teacher who reads should not be left to chance. All students deserve teachers who read. When I read, I can't wait to share my thoughts about books with them. I usually have several students in my mind who just might like that book.
This is how we build those reading relationships.
This is why my students read.