Let them read, please…


Pause to Reflect…

What does the reading classroom in your school look like? Are bookcases filled with books? Are baskets of books set around the room? Are book talks occuring? Do kids talk about books? Do kids share their books?

In my classroom on Friday, a first occurred. One student turned to another and said, “You should get this book and read it with me. It’s really good.”

Imagine that. An impromptu bookclub starting right in the reading classroom. How did that happen?

Students in my classroom read. They read their own texts — texts they have chosen: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, magazines (hunting, motorcycles), etc. Everyday they have at least ten minutes of time to read, and it’s the “I’m done” activity for the school. They take their books to every class, just in class they say, “I’m done.”

It was a struggle at first. They would come each week with a different book with barely even starting the last one. They’d pretend to read. So, at first, I asked them to write to prompts like “What happened in your story today?” “How is the character like someone you know?” “What part do you like in your book today?” 

So, most of the year, students have had twenty minutes of choice reading three days of the week, with at least 10 minutes on the other two days.  They maintain a daily reading log of title/pages read and a booklog for finished books. On some days, they respond to prompts based on our reading lessons. Some days, but not all. 

I wanted kids to read, to read to learn the joy of reading, to read to find connections to themselves in the choices they make.

Probably half of my students had never read a book on their own. Now, all of them have read at least one, many have read five or more. And they’re recommending books to each other. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a favorite. Hunger Games tops the list for the older students. Some now have genre preferences: realistic fiction, nonfiction history, nonfiction science, sports stories, graphic novels. That has never happened before either.

And some students now read science books in preparation for their choice in science investigations– without a suggestion, and well in advance of the project.

Kids choosing books.Kids recommending books to other kids. Kids starting their own bookclubs.

Play to Learn…

So what about those pacing calendars, objective-based lessons, pull-out interventions, and endless tests?

Something more important is happening in my classroom. Students choose to read. They ask to read. And now, some are choosing to read and share together, and they are choosing to read for class before a project starts.

Isn’t it time,

we added time,

to just let them read.



5 thoughts on “Let them read, please…

  1. Hi Sherri,I love your plea to just let them read. It is heart-warming to hear the stories about how some students have grown to love reading over the course of the year. I do wonder, though, if you have let them back off the reading and book logs since they have become more engaged and independent readers? It almost sounds like you were having them keep the logs and do the writing prompts when they weren’t really reading. You do plead, "Isn’t it time, we added time, to just let them read." So, do we JUST let them read and talk about their reading with friends? (like adults get to)This semester, I have given up the reading log. My new "rule" for free reading is to read at least one book a month (a chapter book, but they don’t have to be long ones). It should be a book they love, so I encourage them to abandon books they dislike rather than suffer through them as some have done in the past. However, in spite of giving up the reading log, they still have to take an AR test (required by our school) and I have them do a book project–something interesting about their book. They do like it better this semester than the first, when it was heavy on accountability with the reading log. Anyway, I am curious to hear what you think about the writing accountability. Does it suck out some of the joy?Thanks for a good post, friend,Denise

  2. Hi Denise,Thanks for your ideas — I knew your kids would have "time to read" because you are in tune with the needs of kids beyond the school walls.Yes, I think kids should have time to "just read."Yes, I know we need accountability, and the AR test is short, isn’t it?Yes, at first I kept the students accountable by asking them to write about their books. It did serve another purpose: most students weren’t giving their books enough time to realize they were good; this kept them reading. The book logs (I edited the post) are just title/pages read. If we do write to a reading prompt, the reading log will include the objective too. But that’s not everyday because it would "suck out some of the joy!"This quarter students will review the books they have read and create a comparison report– a display actually (digital or paper) and share in small groups. The display and sharing will focus on how the books added to their lives — theme connections to other parts of their lives (or others’ lives). I used to ask them to do a project on each book, but this year, I want them to share their enjoyment — especially since many have discovered a favorite genre.I like this quote by Katherine Paterson (Newberry Award winner): "It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations–something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own."So, time to read is important to stretch imaginations and to make sense of the world. Every book I read helps me make sense of something, even those I read just for fun. It helps me make sense of differences and stretches what I know already into something deeper.I’m discovering that if my students read what they want to read, and have time to do so in school (many do not read at home), then they too are discovering worlds beyond their own — stretching their imaginations, and discovering connections to others different than themselves.Yes, let’s let them just read — and they will begin sharing and connecting and discussing ideas together.

  3. Thanks, Sherri. I certainly appreciate your thorough response. I love this: "Every book I read helps me make sense of something…It helps me make sense of differences and stretches what I know already into something deeper." Would that our students could say the same thing! We have had such unseasonably warm, dry weather this month that we have been outside reading for several periods. Many of the students have commented about how much better that reading is. Rain coming this week, though.Way to go, giving them time to learn and grow through books.Denise

  4. Sheri,I’m glad you tweeted out this #flashbackpost because it is fun to see for me to reread what you wrote, now that it is more meaningful to me. My learning has been developing over the last year, and I can see how through the conversation we had four months ago. Since this post, I’ve again tweaked my reading program, and I will look forward to seeing an increase in reading and growth this next semester due to the new insights I’ve gotten from you, Donalyn Miller and Nancie Atwell. Thanks for sharing!Denise

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