Giving Students Choices in Reading

Readers without power to make their own choice are unmotivated. -Donalyn Miller-The Book Whisperer

I’ve stated before that I’m a voracious reader.  I have always loved books and the ability to be transformed by a story.  I particularly love Southern writers.  I’ve never quite understood how others aren’t “readers”. They read only when required and almost never for pleasure.  In order to create readers, we have to identify ourselves as a reader first.  We must “brand” ourselves as readers.  When I read to my class, I share what I like about that particular author. I tell about other books like that book.  I make connections with myself to the text, to others, and to the world.  My students know how much I love to read.

But what about those who struggle? Or those who don’t like it?  Getting to the root helps determine which way to help the child grow.  What don’t they like?  Are there books available that interest them?  How many informational texts are available on their reading level?  I can tell you that as much as I love reading, I would not be as enthusiastic if I were forced to sit and read instructional manuals all day, or books on mechanical things. Those are not my interest.  Taking an interest inventory helps know how to fill your book center or your iBooks shelf on your iPad.  Building an early foundation of excitement about books, whether paperback, hardback, or electronic, helps build an appreciation and love for books.

My students have a variety of genres available throughout the day.  We work to build enthusiasm for our classroom library and for our eBooks on our iPads.  By demonstrating authentic reading behaviors, doing away with worksheets, engaging kids in building stamina when they read, and giving kids choices about what they read, we can develop life-long readers.

Reading is so much more than phonics, sight words, and mechanics.  It is about building discovery, wonder, and awe around the written word.  It is power.  It is peace.

So what should students learn from us about reading?  That drill and practice worksheets aren’t making them better readers.  Reading makes them better readers.  iPads give me the opportunity to practice the mechanics of reading with individual students on their own level, but they also give them a choice of what they are reading.  There are leveled books in their iBooks libraries.  There are high interest books as part of their apps, plus all of the traditional books in our classroom.  The best part of all is that the choice is theirs!

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eBooks in the Classroom

Teaching reading IS rocket science.- Louisa Moats

Have you seen the size of textbooks lately?  Measurements go from about an inch to 3 inches.  Forget portability.  Carrying a load of them will surely result in a trip to the chiropractor.  Enter eBooks.  They are rapidly growing into a popular option with all of the electronic reading devices available.

Don’t get me wrong…I still love reading to my students with a physical book. We get cozy and listen.  We drift off to fun and faraway lands.  We laugh at the antics of our favorite characters and we learn to love reading.  Many students don’t have someone cuddle up with them, to read favorite stories and drift off to sleep to the cadence of familiar words from an oft-read story.  eBooks simply offer options for my readers.  Many ebooks have interactive features and vocabulary support that physical books don’t have.  eBooks are easily updated as information changes.  Our iPads hold many eBooks and enhance the “learning on the go” concept. You can take a virtual library with you.  No trees were cut down to make an eBook.  Another consideration is that many eBooks have accessibility features for English Language Learners.  Some students may find reading on an iPad more engaging than an actual book.  While many arguments may be held over traditional books versus eBooks, I simply want my children to READ and to love reading.  eBooks give us the ability to differentiate.

The Common Core State Standards stress readying students for college and career.  Growing good readers requires a large variety of reading resources. I have spent some time recently with Sylvan-Dell publishers.  They have 70 titles in English and Spanish available in eBook format.  The picture books that they publish are usually, fictional stories that relate to animals, nature, the environment, science, and math. Each book has a “For Creative Minds” section to reinforce the educational component of the book itself. This section will have a craft and/or game as well as “fun facts” to be shared by the parent, teacher, or other adult.  The illustrations are realistic and engaging. The books are great for school purchase or for parents to have at home on their iPads for their children. The books are leveled in a variety of ways to meet the needs of different reading programs.  There is a 30 day free trial with no obligation available.

I am all about engaging minds and growing life-long readers.  Having an arsenal of resources both physical and electronic only strengthens my teaching.  In this day and time, teachers need all the help we can get!

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Write This Way

I am a writer. – Jayde, age 6

I’m not a writer. I didn’t go to journalism school and I have no proper credentials that certify me as a writer.  I haven’t immersed myself in the study or practice of writing.  So how can I expect my students to view themselves as a writer if I don’t even view myself as one?

Maybe the problem lies in how one defines “writer”.  I think my perception in the past has been that writers are trained and paid for their work.  Since I’ve been using the Writer’s Workshop approach to writing, I’ve learned that we are all writers.  Writers write every day. Writers share their ideas.  Writers write on a variety of topics and writers are good readers.   As educators, we have to remember that our attitudes are conveyed to our students.  I want my students to be excited about writing.  When I start Writer’s Workshop each day, I call my “writers” to the carpet and I ask them in conferences to share with me what they are learning about themselves as a writer.  In turn, I model writing for them.  I think aloud about writing ideas.  I model what I do when I get “stuck”.  I model writing on a chart tablet and on my iPad.  If I think of a writing idea in the middle of math, I jot it down on a sticky note or in my Notes app.  I tell them to do the same.  I blog here and I blog with them on KidBlog.  We talk about what good writers do and we use mentor texts as examples.

My modeling has been fruitful.  My students write every day.  They write about a variety of topics and for a variety of purposes. They write fiction and non-fiction.  They write stories on paper and on their iPads.  They make lists.  They make books in eBook Magic and on Pages.  They write personal narratives and one even wrote a song. They blog with each other.  They fill one page and ask for another.  And another.

They have no doubt they are writers.  It never occurs to them to think they aren’t. They write and they share. They encourage one another.  They have all the necessary tools.  They have training.  All they need now is to get paid!

Hey wait!  Can I get in on that too?

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