The Importance of Books
I cannot tell you how many times I hear teachers give me anecdotal evidence about some program they are using in literacy education. For the sake of our students we need to use juried evidence and make sure we keep in mind the goal of helping students be book-loving citizens. While standardized tests are a reality- I feel that if we keep the goal of exciting students about books then the test results will follow. Reading researcher Linda Gambrell once told me of the “false hope” some seek in test preparation. So how do we do reach our goal?
1. Students need ACCESS to books- Many students have no access to books at home and have never even been excited about reading or found that “homerun” book that starts them on the path to being a book loving and proficient reader. Classrooms should be full of books! Libraries are important but having books in the classroom helps a lot.
2. Students need TIME to read- Once students find books we need to give them time to read. Reading in school leads to reading at home but we must generate that excitement first.
3. Students need CHOICE in what they read- Forcing students to read the same books in class or out loud one chapter at a time is BORING. Students need to be able to abandon a book if they do not like it and finish a book in one day if they want. I am not telling a student they have to stop after chapter one so we can answer some silly questions.
4. Students need a HIGHLY SKILLED TEACHER to help them- Teachers need to know a lot about books. While fiction books will be the more popular choice, a lot of students will select non-fiction. Teachers need to be able to interact with students about the books the students have chosen to read. If a students asks for books about a certain topic, teachers need to have several options ready. Teachers must carry on constant conversations -with students- about the books they are reading.
**One of the most difficult things for struggling readers is to find books they like. I spend the entire first month of school getting students connected with book and getting them comfortable with books. It might take a while to find a good book, but that is OK. This all pays off in the long run.