Are you an avid reader? Many teachers are. Some of us grew up with books and others became lifelong readers later in life. If you are one of these people, do you use this to its fullest advantage as a literacy teacher? If not, I encourage you to start! When we share our reading lives with students we can:
- become reading role models for them
- model our own reading processes
- connect with our students as human beings, not just as teacher-student
- draw on our own experiences and use that information to teach during mini-lessons and individual conferences
- get kids excited about reading
- and the list could go on…
This past week I’ve had two opportunities to share my reading life with some fourth-graders. Their class just formed historical fiction book clubs. On their first day with their clubmates, their teacher asked them to talk about how they would like their book club to go and to create a “constitution”. It is always my hope that what I have students do in the classroom does not just happen in the “world of school” but has implications for life outside the classroom walls. I like students to see the relevance that school tasks can have in our daily lives. So I took the opportunity to share with this class my experience with my own book club, of which I have been a member for the past 6 years. I brought in our Book Club Organizer to show them how my book club keeps track of what we have read, where we meet, lists of books we might read someday, etc.
Last year I shared this same notebook with another group of fourth-graders. As a result, a group of four girls approached me afterward to see if they could look more closely at the notebook. The following week they told me that they decided to start a book club of their own outside of school and had already met at one of their houses. They continued to meet as a book club throughout the year!
I recently conferred with a young reader I am getting to know. This reader told me that she selects books by just “picking them off the shelf” without much forethought. I use a Research-Decide-Teach (download cheat sheet) approach to conferring, so as I was talking with her (researching), I had to decide not only what to teach her but also how I might teach her. There are a variety of methods we can choose from (demonstrate, give an example and explicit explanation, guided practice/coaching). I chose to give her some examples from my own reading life. I happened to have my iPad with me, so I was able to show her how I keep a list of “Books I Want to Read”. I actually have three lists: one for professional books, one for children’s books, and one for pleasure reading. I explained that the books on these lists come from a variety of sources. Sometimes I add books to my list because I have read a book in a series and decide to read more in that series. Sometimes I learn about new books written by my favorite authors, so I add those to my list. Many of the titles are added to my lists because a friend or colleague has recommended them. After sharing ideas from my own reading life, I helped this reader brainstorm ways that she could get ideas for her booklist. I asked if she would like me to bring her a special form that she could keep in her reading folder. She immediately said yes, so the next day I brought her the form (you can download one by clicking on the link below).
Download Books I Want to Read Form
These are just two examples of ways to tap into our own reading lives to inspire, motivate, and connect with the reading apprentices in our classrooms. I encourage you to think of other ways to do this!
On a side note, I have another tool that I did not share with this fourth-grader but would like to share with you. I have a Goodreads account where I keep track of all of the books I read. This is a free service that you can use on your computer or as an app on your iPad or Smartphone. You are able to categorize books onto different shelves that you create, you can recommend books or get recommendations from friends or the general public. (You acquire Goodreads friends similar to Facebook friends). If you have the app on your phone, there is even a barcode scanner. I use this when I am in a library or bookstore and see a book that I want to put on my “to read” list. I simply scan the barcode, the book cover and title appears on my phone, and I add it to my “to read” shelf! If you are an avid reader and haven’t tried Goodreads, check it out!