Saturday, June 4, 2016

Helping Students Become Adults Who Read

Does Steph Curry play basketball too much?”

That’s how I told my daughter, who is also an English teacher, she should have responded to the student who told her she reads too much. Yea, well, I always have great comebacks for other people’s lives. I’m not nearly so clever in real time.

Still, the point here is I want my students to read not just under duress and when assigned, but to grow into adults who read. (If you’re wondering why, see here, here, and here.) How can I scaffold a bridge for that gap?

Let’s start with this question: What do adults who read do? 

Here are a few answers to that question: They have lists of books they want to read, they have ways of adding to those lists, and they talk with others about what they read. One way this adult has been doing those things increasingly in the last year is via the Goodreads web site

I connected with a few friends who do a lot of reading—I can see the list of books they want to read, and their ratings and reviews of books they finish. I keep a “want to read” shelf. I post brief (usually, sort of, at least that’s what I tell myself to psyche myself up) reviews of the books I finish. And I joined the Goodreads reading challenge, where you set a goal for the number of books you want to read in the calendar year, and Goodreads will keep a running tally (see photo). It also gives me recommendations based on what I’ve read and rated.

So what happens if I get students on Goodreads? My rising 10th and 11th graders are going to have to do it for their summer reading—so I’ll keep you posted on how that goes. (It just seems to me that instead of just posting 5 “want to read” books and 1 book review on a class Google Doc like they did last year, posting the same to Goodreads is an easy way to give students an audience beyond just school.)

Here’s what happened in the half a class period Friday that I gave my out-going 11th graders to play around on Goodreads, asking them to at least set up an account and post 5 “want to read” books (I really have no grade leverage here as it was our last class period of the year, and I don’t have them again next year). They were fully engaged. They were remembering books they’d read in school in previous years (“Oh! Remember Where the Red Fern Grows!”), rating and shelving them as “read.” 

I noticed one student’s screen displayed Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. I said, “That’s a great book,” just as he clicked on the next page, but then he went back for another look. 

Another student said, “Wonder keeps coming up.” I walked over to my basket of books, pulled it out, and handed it to her. Another student then went over to my basket and found The Fifth Wave, which he asked if he could borrow. 

To yet another student I handed Half the Sky—her neighbor said, “Oh, that’s a really good book.” She answered, “I have this in my car.”

I think they’ll read this summer. I even think they’re becoming adults who read. 

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