The students from my school come from a diverse set of backgrounds. As many as 60% are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and many more students are not currently reading on grade level.
That being said, students are hungry for a chance to read, understand, learn, and grow their skills.
Fortunately for our kids, we are living in a day and age where many graphic novels are being published on both classic and modern literature. This makes reading for so many of them actually accessible.
A few years ago I got to see another teacher engage her students in the 40 Book Challenge inspired by Donalyn Miller. The benefit that I received from these teachers were students that not only wanted to read, but wanted to engage more readily with difficult texts and meaningfully interact with complicated texts. Their intellectual growth in all areas was ten fold. I watched previously passive readers turn to insistent consumers of knowledge. This was nothing short of transformative!
I recently asked for several high interest books through another grant and when I received the books I took time to book talk them in all of my classes and the kids went wild. I told them that they couldn't check them out until the next day during our milk break in order to make it fair for all my classes. I was shocked to see several kids lined up at my door as I arrived at school. When I approached them they told me that they just couldn't wait to get reading the book they had chosen the day before.
High interest and access to books is the key to getting kids to devour books on their own.
All you have to do is set the scene, and the students will do the rest. Penny Kittle the reading guru states,
Penny Kittle states, “I believe every child in America needs access to books that will keep him or her turning pages, racing to the end, discovering new ideas, and learning to understand the diversity in our world. I believe all children deserve books they can and will want to read and teachers who will guide them to improve as readers. (169).
Students devour great books when the culture of the classroom revolves around the reading, talking and writing about books. I have watched the culture of a classroom and a school change from one of non-reading to one where each and every student finds the value in the stories that are found within the covers of a great book. My students will use these books to find stories that allow them to escape their everyday lives, push them to think about the world around them and let them roam the lives of the characters they find within.
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