What are you reading?

This week I read some amazing articles on motivating students to read.  I learned a lot and some of my thoughts about teaching reading were reinforced.  I got some new ideas and thought critically about my previous beliefs.

I truly feel that our job as educators is to develop those life-long readers.  It is our responsibility to help our students grow.  We don’t have a choice in this matter – as educators it is our duty to motivate students and allow them to develop into readers.

But, how do we do that?

My Steps for Developing Life-Long Readers

I think there are four elements needed to create passionate, life-long readers.  We must complete them daily, repeatedly, and in new and innovative ways.  These steps are..

Talk about reading – their reading and our reading

Talking about reading is vital and essential!  We need to show our students through our actions and our conversations that reading is important.  We

CC: Flickr Creative Commons

should ask students what they are reading and honestly listen.  We need to talk about elements of stories, interesting nonfiction, and allow them to teach us about what they love to read.  We also need to allow our students to talk to each other about their reading.  Let them share with a neighbor the newest book in their hands or the book they stayed up too late to read.  Validate their experiences with books they didn’t finish or didn’t like (we all have been there), but help them move on to the next book that might be a match.  Conversation about reading is essential to developing life-long readers.


Share our excitement about books and drum up their excitement about books

This goes along with the first element – sharing our excitement about reading is sharing what we are reading with students.  Book talks, book trailers, and conversations with students will show them that we practice what we preach.  We should strive to be that crazy reading teacher who won’t stop talking about the newest book.  We also need to encourage their excitement about reading.  Let them do a book talk – not graded, just share what they read.  Allow them to “sell” the book they LOVE to their friends.  Excitement breeds excitement.  This is true in life and especially in our reading lives.


Set challenging and realistic goals to motivate our students.

Ever really want something that is just outside of your ability?  Didn’t you work hard to attain that goal?  We should set goals with our students that ask them to expand their horizons, stretch their reading comforts, and be something that has high interest for them.  We should help them to set goals that they can reach when they put in that extra little push of reading muscle.  Maybe their goal is to read a certain number of books.  Or a certain number of pages. Or to read widely and read various genres.  Maybe their challenge and goal is to find that one book they can not believe they never read.  Maybe their challenge is to write about what they have read.  There are endless goals out there – it is our duty to help students articulate these goals and create plans to reach them.



If you are a long-time reader of Oz and Other Lands, you will know that I fully support the concept of choice reading.  You will also notice that I cite Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer) and other educators who advocate for not creating lists of “required reading”.  If you haven’t read all of those gems (rants?), go visit the archives and find some of the thoughts these wonderful educators have inspired.

But, here is the long and short of it:  let students choose.  Countless authors, researchers, teachers, and bloggers have found that when students choose their reading, they are more engaged and they actually want to read the books they have.  Choice reading should be encouraged in all classrooms – reading or any other subject.  If you have done justice to the other three elements (talking about reading, drumming up excitement about books, and setting challenging but attainable goals), this probably has been one of the key tools you have used.  If not, you should try it.  I promise that your students will surprise you, read things they never would have read before, and develop and grow into life-long readers.

That was a bit longer than I expected, but I find that  I am super passionate about this.  We are obligated to create a generation of humans who read, share their knowledge, and act compassionately.  It is vital to our well-being and to our society.  Talk about books and reading. Get excited about the topic with students.  Help them set goals that are attainable but still challenging.  Let them choose what they read to reach their goal.

I firmly, wholeheartedly believe that when we do that, we do justice to our profession and students.


Talking About Books

This week I spent some time reading Book Love, by Penny Kittle.  In her book, Kittle shares ideas of book talks, how they work for students, and the passion for books that students begin to share.  We also read a few articles about read alouds and the benefit they have for older readers.

As I think about my life as a reader and a teacher, I can see the importance of talking about books with students.  I want to record my current thoughts about talking about books.

The Book Talk

I’ve heard about book talks quite a bit this past year between Children’s Lit and now YA Lit classes.  Yet, I had never seen one.  That’s right….NEVER.  A quick YouTube search brought me to Ms. Jen Smith and this amazing book talk.

Now that I have seen this, I GET it.  She follows the format Penny Kittle lays out for us.  She holds the book and shows students the cover, the size of the book, and points out features of the cover that help draw the listener in.  Ms. Smith knows this book, she has read it, she shares how this book came to her (a student recommended it), and she knows the background of the author and why he wrote the book.  She reads short passages to the students.  She gives some background about the plot, but then supplements them with pieces of text that show the author’s voice, the action that is happening, and the pull of the plot.  This is a successful book talk – I’ve added the book to my TBR even!

I could do a Book Talk on ANY of these!

So, why would I take class time to do a book talk?  First, it helps to develop the community of readers in my classroom.  Penny Kittle emphasizes that we need to share our reading lives with students and the book talk is one way to do that.  Secondly, it is a great way to tell students about books they might not otherwise pick up.  Book talks can also be handed over to students throughout the year, giving them a chance to share the books that they love (and practice some speaking and listening skills along the way).


The Read Aloud

Book talks are great ways to share snippets of our favorite books with students.  Yet, how can we share some amazing books with students in a more in-depth way?  The answer to this is the Read Aloud.

A Read Aloud is when the teacher (or 2979328682_22e8a02813_osometimes the students) read part of a longer book or an entire book out loud to students.  The Read Aloud is a common feature of elementary classrooms and children’s libraries.  How can they work for teens?

Jess deCourcy Hinds explains the benefits of Read Alouds with teens in this article.  Read Alouds benefit teens, especially those who are dormant readers or who struggle with reading.  Teens often have a higher comprehension level when listening because the act of reading may require them to work very hard without much benefit.  Also, Read Alouds allow us to model reading strategies for our students – using context clues to define a word, reading with a proper pace and inflection, and sharing the fact that reading can be pleasurable.

These elements are essential to developing our community of readers because they model real-life pleasure reading.  It engages students and allows them to truly enjoy a book without the pressure of being assessed on the book’s features – especially if reading is a challenge.


My Future Classroom

My future classroom will be FILLED with books.  I want to also share with students some amazing and inspiring works.  I want to ignite their passions for reading and create a community of readers who share the goods and the bads of different written works.  I can do this by incorporating Read Alouds and Book Talks.  These are just two ways that I can talk about reading with my students and maybe, just maybe, help them to find their reading passions.

Well, what do you think?  Should we talk about books and share books with our students?  How do we “defend” these practices to the naysayers?  Let’s talk below….