A few years ago, I felt I was hitting my stride in developing lifelong readers. Inspired by Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide and Donalyn Miller’s Book Whisperer, I had given up on trying to “catch” kids who weren’t reading their outside reading books; instead, I focused my energy on observing my students as they read self-selected books in and out of class. Then, things changed. Leadership in my department changed. Standards changed. Assessments changed. And I cowed to those changes.
At the end of the 2014-2015 school year, my students completed a during-reading assignment over their outside reading book, which they selected from lists of banned and challenged books. The end assessment was an in-class writing, a letter to the district library coordinator advocating for the book to be included in high school libraries or requesting that the title be pulled from the shelves. In theory, this seemed a great assignment. It was aligned with the Kansas CCR standards, which requires student to cite evidence from text in their writing. However, as I graded the during-reading assignments—and even the in-class writings—my frustration about the rampant plagiarism and surface-level thinking boiled over. I was livid that students were using book passages and summaries from various Internet sites to complete their assignments rather than just reading and thinking about what they had read. Then, it hit me: they had put about as much thought into doing my assignments as I had about the REAL PURPOSE of outside reading.
As I plan for the 2015-2016 school year, I begin with a clear, concise PURPOSE for outside reading in my class: To develop lifelong readers. Am I going to chuck the district curriculum out the window? Nope. Am I going to flip the bird to my superiors? Not yet, anyways. Am I going to ignore the fact that my students take standardized assessments? Sadly, no. I will attend to the district curriculum and prepare my students for assessments with other components of my class; however, I pledge to keep my efforts regarding outside reading pure. I pledge to not cow again.
Luckily, I do work with some colleagues who support and even share a vision of developing lifelong readers. At a recent Unconference, one such colleague, Emily Dawson, and I had the opportunity to collaborate on designing a component of class that would encourage students to engage in habits of lifelong readers. Now, in order to do my due diligence in citing my sources, 90-95% of this component isn’t mine. My colleague came up with the original concept, and I used ideas from Donalyn Miller, Kelly Gallagher, and even Penny Kittle to flesh it out. But, the draft of this component excites me so much that I just have to share it. So, here it is:
- Note that the document introduces students to the habits of lifelong readers in simple language.
- For each habit, four specific activities that exemplify it are listed.
- For each activity, students are told exactly how they “prove” they completed the activity.
I am under no illusion that this document is perfect, or that completing the activities on the document will magically transform my students into lifelong readers. I still have a lot of thinking and planning to do. However, I do feel confident that I am going in the right direction once again.
So, what do YOU do you your classroom to develop lifelong reading habits?