Saturday, June 8, 2019

Creating Reading Experiences

This past week, Donalyn Miller wrote a post about her annual #bookaday on the Nerdy Book Club Blog. She explains how the #bookaday came about and the guidelines to participate. But toward the end of the post, she writes this:

"Ultimately, the measure of a reading life isn't how many books we read. We measure our reading lives in the experiences, knowledge gained, the conversations and relationships we have with other readers, or the further reading inquiry, or action our reading experiences spark."

Like many things Donalyn says, this got me thinking and has left me with many questions. As hard as I try to be a literacy advocate in and out of my classroom, I believe I can always do more and be better.

I have been thinking about how can I make reading experiences stronger in my classroom. How can I create different ways for my students to show their knowledge through reading? How can I improve conversations about books and our reading lives, which will build reading relationships? How can I engage students, which will spark that desire to read and learn more?

I brainstormed and made a list of things to think about this summer, which I share with you.

  • I can be more consistent with my book talks and give more opportunities for students to talk about books among themselves. Summer is a great time to revisit books I have read and to think about the books I will share in the fall.
  • I can be more consistent with making reading time in class a priority. Some times I let other important-things-at-the-moment take up the time set aside for reading. I believe Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher have said if they aren't reading at school, then they aren't reading at home. It is difficult to have reading experiences when students aren't reading.
  • I can strengthen my reading conferences. Making time to confer with every student regularly allows me to create reading relationships. 
  • I can continue to read myself. When I sit down with my students to confer, they know we are talking reader to reader, not teacher to student. Being familiar with the books in my library helps me to recommend books to students, solidifying that reader to reader relationship.
  • I can create different ways for students to share what they have learned through reading. Reading response is a part of my standards and is expected. But the response does not always have to be a written paragraph or essay. 
  • I can find texts that will spark their thinking and lead them to other reading. Thanks to the connections on social media, finding texts that are timely and relevant for my students is much easier. Summer is the perfect time to search for these.

As Donalyn said, it is these experiences that ultimately measure a reading life. This fall, students from four elementary schools will converge in my classroom, each coming with their own set of reading experiences. These experiences have made or have broken a reader and also contribute to students' attitudes about reading. 

My students come from AR reading experiences. Points are how they measure their reading lives. I have many students who come in saying they don't like to read; some even say they hate reading.

It becomes my job early in the year to find out about their experiences. But most importantly, to create better ones.

Ones that will become a new measure of their reading lives, hopefully, for years to come.