Saturday, January 18, 2014

Readers who Love to Read

Friends.  Finally, the shift I had been hoping for, I think is happening!  I wish I had more pictures to share with you, but my wish is my words will show you what we've been doing.

As readers in first grade, we had what you need on the surface to be successful.  A large classroom library to make choices from, chances each day to read appropriately leveled text with guidance from me, shared reading experiences, read alouds, appropriate word work, chances to write each day, the list goes on and on as it does in a first grade classroom.  (Any early classroom really...)

Yet, something was missing.  They (my students), didn't seem to have that joy over books that every teacher dreams about.  And it bothered me.  A lot.  I felt like I was forcing the idea of reading.  That's not a feeling that I was proud of.  It hit me at the beginning of December.  I had to do something.  When they leave me, of course I want them to be able to read.  But I also want them to Choose Books.  I want them to Love Reading long after I'm not their teacher any more.  The excitement of holding a book that you chose, and getting to read it!

So, I began to reflect on what I know, believe, and do.  In our staff library we have this book:

I brought this home and began to read parts of it.  And knew I had to make more time for an authentic, uninterrupted read aloud with rich and joyous discussion.  It's really morphed into this: children are bringing me their favorite books and asking me to read them to the class.  Who is going to say no to that?  I didn't. So I've been honoring this.  If they are excited enough to bring it to school, I'm going to make time to read it!  

In this book, it also talks about the concept of a reading lounge.  I love this idea and dream of a large uninterrupted area where kids only go to read.  After mulling this concept for a few weeks, I finally had the chance to arrange this in my classroom:

Our small but mighty Reading Lounge!

It's our own reading lounge!  See that?!?!?!  As kids took a turn in the reading lounge, they all looked like this.  The official rule is only reading to self is allowed.  (My students just need to know what is acceptable, or the learning can get lost.) By day 2, I did have to ask students to leave the lounge because they weren't reading, they were trying to use the time for chatter that wasn't related to anything they were reading at all.  This is my favorite picture of the use, because the two friends who are chatting are discussing why the child on the sofa should or shouldn't read the book that the child on the floor is reading.  I house our Book Buzz selections (see below) and I have been checking out books from our library and placing them in there to encourage new titles.  Taking the time to create a space for only reading as made the statement in our classroom that this is purposeful and important.  And I think we've gone from compliance to engagement when it comes to reading.  

Then I read this book:

I'll say it again.  Run right out and buy this book.  I'll wait.  
A quick note about this book.  If you are looking for an inspirational, practical read for your classroom, this is it.  I was moved to tears by this book.  (I know that sounds...well...sappy.  But it's true.)  There was an awesome Twitter chat on this book that I was sorry to miss.  (Family first...)  So here's how this book has shaped the readers in my classroom.
In chapter two of Reading in the Wild, Donalyn Miller writes of creating a book buzz.  A few times a week, I'm featuring picture books that are from "my closet."  There are so many in there I won't get to reading aloud.  I'm putting them on display, speaking briefly about them, and then allowing the children to sign up.  I keep a rough journal list of who gets the book next to help us learn self control and sharing.  The enthusiasm for the titles I'm putting out has been amazing.  I started with some Mo Willems last week, and introduced some nonfiction this week.  I'll be gone through "my closet" next week to choose some other titles that I think the kids will enjoy.

As I reflect on these two shifts, I'm pleased with how it's going.  They don't take a lot of instruction time away from my day, and they have brought back a sense of joy and engagement that I was missing in my students.  

How do you keep your students truly engaged in what they are reading?  Do they naturally gravitate towards books?  Or do you have to encourage this often?  

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