"PR" in Reading. Challenge students to their best reading year! | Mentoring in the Middle

"PR" in Reading. Challenge students to their best reading year!

I wrote about the importance of learning about your students and how they feel about reading in a previous blog post.  You can read about that {here}if you'd like the background for what happens next in my classroom.

Now that I know a little about each student, it's important to set the tone for the reading that will take place all year long.  I expect students in 6th grade to read for at least half an hour a day.  If you gasped, that's how some of my students respond, too!
But here's the thing, and I have taken my cues from Donalyn Miller, Jennifer Serravallo, and John Schu, among others.  The research is pretty clear that the more kids read the smarter they get.  Plain and simple.

This was one of my favorite books and it shaped the way I looked at having kids read, including helping them set goals for themselves that were reasonable and motivating.  In her classroom, Donalyn Miller sets a goal of 40 books a year per child.  I set it a bit lower, at 25, but when we count at the end of the year, the average is always around 31-32.

Don't make reading a punishment! 
A couple of things you need to know about me:  I don't like to make reading a book a homework activity and I really dislike kids having to track their reading with reading contracts or logs (sorry!)  I just know when I pick up a book, I don't want to have to see how many pages I've read, I don't want to have to time myself for how long I read, and I certainly don't want to have to write a summary sentence about what I read!

So, how do I get kids to read at home?  Give them time to read at school!  Get them so involved in what they're reading that they want to know what happens next!

How to get to 30 minutes a day:
It doesn't have to be 30 uninterrupted minutes.  After all, most kids can figure out that if they read for 10 or 15 minutes at school, they're 1/3 or 1/2 way to their goal for the day.  So give them some time in school: when they first come in and you're trying to take attendance, deal with missing homework, lunch counts, etc.  Or when they come back from lunch or recess or Specials, and you want to give them a few minutes to get settled in for what's next in your room.  Those precious minutes add up!

I'm not such a rigid rule follower that I care if a student reads for 10 minutes one day and makes up for it on the weekends, and honestly, once they get into books, I move the focus away from time.

I only do that at the beginning to show them that they could be reading:
  1. while their sibling is searching around for his/her shoes before practice
  2.  in the car on the way to wherever (as long as they don't get carsick)
  3.  at a sibling's practice if they have to go along
  4.  to their dog or cat
  5.  to a younger sibling
  6.  while they're waiting for the bus
  7.  in the auditorium waiting for all the other classes to come in (Donalyn does this and I think it's brilliant.  Imagine how quiet the auditorium would be if everyone were reading.  You just have to make sure they take their books with them when they leave!)
Talk about books regularly
Make conversation about reading a regular part of your day.  How?  It doesn't have to be a lot!  Start small.
  • Find good matches for students based on what you know about them.  Put them on their desk with a note "Thought you might like to take a look at this book!"
  • Meet with a student or two to talk about what they're reading.  
  • Have students talk about books to the whole class.
  • Have students do book projects and display them
  • Group students and have them share why the book they're reading is so good
It doesn't have to be much.  But as books become infused in your day, watch the magic begin!  Kids will start talking to each other about the books they're reading.  Someone will notice a classmate looking for a book and walk over to offer some thoughts.  Kids come in to your room excited to tell you about what they read last night.

There are no magic solutions, no great graphic organizers or posters for this.  This one just requires good conversation and goal setting to start!

Next time, I'll show you how students keep track of every book they've tried.  In the meantime, have a great week!

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