My 7th grade students are at the tender years of transitioning to young adulthood. They are eager to explore the world around them but still are too young to do so autonomously. However, books offer them the ability to see the world, develop opinions and create expectations for the people they are becoming.
A love for reading is an underestimated gift.
Within books, people find empathy, goals, dreams, ideas, comfort... the list is endless. A good book does not offer an escape from our daily world; rather, books expand our world. As a teacher, I want to expand my students' worlds as much as possible.
In my classroom, I try to give my students the opportunity to see themselves and others in books that represent a wide variety of people and lifestyles. I believe in the power of representation to validate our experiences and to teach us that the world exists beyond our little bubbles. Within my classroom, there is a wide range of cultures, languages, heritages and beliefs which books can help us learn to share unproductive, empathetic ways.
As an English teacher, one of my main goals is help kids have positive and productive relationships with books. It is my firm belief that books make us more empathetic and curious people. However, we won't love to read unless we love the books we read and have access to lots of them; likewise, we won't be productive readers until we learn to talk about and engage with what we read. As a way to get our students excited about books, my colleagues and I do "book tasting" during which our classrooms are decked out in a theme and students "taste" books. Based on their interested, we group students into literature circles. Thus, we create groups of students reading and talking books that intrigued them. However, decorating our classroom is not enough to create lifelong readers.
We needs books in which students see themselves and their experiences.
We need students to connect with books. We also needs books with characters and stories that are worlds away from their lives in which they can expand their worldview. The list of books that I created is made up of recently written, relevant and diverse books. Access to current literature is so important when becoming a reader; I want my students to see that novels are created in response to real life. I want my students to learn how to talk about themselves, others, current events that they care about and feel connected to. Only then, can I create classes of students equipped with the reading skills to be empathetic, critical, observant and thoughtful readers and people.
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