We know that our kids do more reading than children 50 year ago, but most of that reading is fragmented and tends not to directly benefit them from a cognitive point of view. Reading a novel introduces students to concepts, expressions, words and challenges that they might not get in real life. The idea of a plot and story works their brain when they are not reading, playing through scenarios.
Students who are regular recreational readers are much stronger when it comes to comprehension and writing tasks.
If you are a teacher, consider the following changes through your practice:
- Encouraging students to pick up a book if they finish their academic work.
As a classroom teacher we are all guilty of rewarding students with more work or finishing homework if they finish early. But what if we encouraged students to pick up a book? Perhaps continuing to read their English Novel or perhaps something that interests them. Imagine a class test where all students had something to read if they finished early.
- Teachers actively talking about what they are reading.
Students need to see that all teachers read, not just English teachers. Opportunities to share what you are reading might present itself during pastoral care sessions. Recommending books to students (I think you would like this book because …). One of the most powerful things that a teacher or parent can do is recommend a book to a student. “I recommend this because I think you could identify with the main character”. Make your recommendation genuine. It could be a fiction or non-fiction book. Making links between the curriculum that you teach and fiction that might inspire students. We don’t often think of Science or Maths when we think of recreational reading. But there are lots of genre’s that stretch across the curriculum.
- Adding a fiction reading list to your subject synopsis can add an extra level of engagement in the classroom.
Teacher Librarian’s are happy to assist with resource gathering and can even create small “chapter samples” to be used as part of your tool kit. They are experts in engaging with students about what they read. Every teacher in your school can get their hands on the Year level booklists, and should be encouraged to read some of the novels that their students are studying. Asking students about the novels that they are studying in English places an emphasis on the importance of studying texts and encourages students to vocalise their opinion about these books to someone other than their English Teacher. If you don’t have time to read these novels your Teacher Librarians will gladly point you in the direction of the spark notes for them!
- Making reading visible throughout the school.
When was the last time a student saw you reading? If you are too busy to read, perhaps that is the reason why they often see themselves as “too busy to read”. Share with students the books that excite you, “hey, have your read this book?” or relate it back to a movie that you have seen. Have you read the book version of the movie?
Would you be prepared to do one of them to build your school reading culture?