Fostering Reading Cultures in Schools
No one ever needed to foster a love a reading for me, well they probably did, but I don’t remember feeling reluctant to the idea of picking up a book, reading it, and falling for every word. I have loved reading and writing for as long as I can remember, so when I hear a child say “I don’t like reading”, it breaks my heart, but also confuses me. How could anyone not like reading?
When I taught in the classroom, I always made sure that we had at least twenty minutes of silent reading each day. Understandably, the younger grades would need to read for a shorter amount of time, but in my intermediate classroom, we made silent reading a ritual part of our day. We would either start off the day this way, or instead read after lunch to recenter before we continued on with the afternoon. My students knew that they could sit anywhere in the class, in our cozy reading nook, on the floor, or even outside. My class was located directly next to the library, and twice a week it was empty, so we used it as a “special treat” to be able to read in the library too. I had a lot of students with anxiety, and this quiet reading time provided them with the opportunity to find a calm spot and refocus. When the weather was kind to us, we would take our lunches and books over to the provincial park next to our school, and read in the woods, next to the ocean. It was beautiful, relaxing, and inclusive, but I understand that not every student has this relationship with reading.
I have a new role now, the role of someone who walks into a classroom, with a bin of books to deliver to students in which I have not yet built deep and meaningful relationships with. I bring them these books, in hopes there is something they’ll like, despite not knowing their stories, or their history with books or reading. I don’t know the kinds of books that bring them joy, or the books that create fear in their hearts. It is a rocky and uneven ground that I walk upon, and its been a tough beginning of the year, trying to foster a love of reading in the hearts and minds of the young ones in my life.
I watched a video by THE OGLESBY OHANA titled Fostering a LOVE for READING in your Children, in the video she carefully outlines some steps you can take to be able to foster a love of reading in children. It is geared towards parents who are homeschooling their children, but the steps are still very well applicable to the classroom as well.
Step one: STREWING
Make books accessible to children, leave them along their path so they can grab them when they want to read.
Step two: MAKE READING COMFORTABLE
Get pillows, blankets, couches, to make reading comfortable for them. Take them outside. Make the energy gentle and accepting.
Step three: READ TO THEM AND READ WITH THEM.
Reading becomes special when they foster relationships. Make the time to reading aloud with your students. Don’t be afraid to stop reading to explain things, to laugh, and make connection points.
Step four: LET THEM PICK OUT THE BOOKS
Let them read the books they want to read, because at least they’re reading (if it is appropriate). Let them know they have a voice in their reading.
Step five: LET BOOKS BE THE ANSWER
Instead of going straight to your phone, get them to look it up in the books they have on hand or a dictionary.
In Will Richardson’s Why School he speaks of a time when he approached parents, asking them the question “Why School?”.
“Not surprisingly, the first answer on their lips is not “I want them to be good test takers.” Nor is it “I want them to know a lot of stuff.” What I hear instead are things like: “I want them to love learning.” “I want them to be able to solve real problems.” “I want them to be independent thinkers.” Those, and many similar outcomes, are what I want for my kids, too.” (Richardson, Why School).
This is a great representation of my heart for the students at my school. Not only do I hope they build a fluency for reading, are able to read, decipher, and articulate information into knowledgable presentations. It’s more than for them to be able to access resources, to then be able to contribute intellectually to a conversation. For me, I aspire to inspire my students to foster a love for reading, to know that they can come back to this calming activity when everything else in their life may seen overwhelming. They can pick up a book, and escape to another world, for a little while. I don’t want reading to be a scary thing for them, I want it to be beautiful and wonderful, as it it for myself, and so many others.
Richardson, Will. Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere (Kindle Single) . TED Conferences. Kindle Edition.
THE OGLESBY OHANA. “Fostering a LOVE for READING in Your Children.” Youtube, 2020, youtu.be/h4B0n4IDbfI.
3 thoughts on “Inquiry Blog Post #1”
Hi Janelle, my name is Luisa, thank you for sharing your post. I connected to a lot of what you said about having had an innate love for reading yourself as a child and wanting to foster that love in your students. The elementary school that I attended in the 90’s was ROUGH. In grades six and seven, a lot of my peers were already in gangs and experimenting with things they should not have even known about. I had always loved school myself, but being around a lot of intimidating other ‘children’ was stressful for me and so the silent reading part of each afternoon in my class was always comforting to me and gave me a bit of time to escape the reality of my school surroundings (luckily my home life was very stable and calm). I think it is amazing that you were taking your students to the park and by the ocean etc. to enjoy their independent book time, what a wonderful treat for all the students and especially the ones that may need that bit of escape more than others.
On another note, my sister is currently homeschooling her sons and I am looking forward to sharing the video that you have shared here with her, it is super inspiring. It is also a great video for classroom teachers (as you mention) because STEP ONE for example, is a reminder that books do not only need to live in the ‘book centre’ area of a classroom, but can be and should be in a variety of spaces. For example, I teach K/1 and I keep architecture/structure themed books in my blocks area, artsy books in my art studio space and science books by my Wonder Window.
Have a great week!
This is a thoughtful and well-written post filled with strong ideas on fostering a reading culture. I imagine that the routines you had built around reading in your classroom (using it to recenter, reading in the library, in the woods, by the ocean) must have sparked that love of reading for your students. I know you are in a new role and feel like you are on uneven ground right now, but I believe that your love of reading combined with your creative ideas linked to best practice will help you find the way.