Book Talkin’

The very fist student day of school, Deb Gaby (the reading coach in my school district) and I stumbled upon a meeting between 5th and 6th grade language arts teachers. They were discussing how to help students want to read. Deb and I slipped into the conversation. I was struck because these teachers are quite skilled at helping students become readers. They have a passion for reading that’s contagious.

Yet, here on the first day of school, they were meeting because they felt their students (in the past couple of years) had lost their passion for reading. Our quick discussion led us to defining a weekly meeting time and a quest to answer the question: How can our middle school students keep their love for reading?

Four weeks in and we are still meeting with an energy that is genuine and an excitement that is real. The teachers are remembering how they “grow readers” and their passion is contagious — not only to their students, but to their colleagues, and to me too. Sometimes in the quest to do the right thing and follow mandates and standards, we forget the heart of what we do — we love readers.

As coaches, we aren’t pushing the teachers to do anything new. Rather, we are reminding them of their core beliefs. We are nudging them to reflect on their practice and whether it aligns with their objective: To grow readers.

The “results” have been energizing. They are working to get to know their 100+ readers. They are stoking their passion and allowing it to take over their  teaching. They have also started book talks again. (This is something they quit doing a few years ago because they felt it took too much time) They’ve vowed to keep the book talks short (a couple of minutes) and have started inviting students to talk about books too. It’s nothing formal, but it is a powerful habit to establish. To Read lists have been established in notebooks and students have started a habit of collecting titles in their notebooks. They are building reading lives and feel like their teaching is making a difference.

I think it is too easy to blow by establishing reading habits for our students in the name of time or standards or test prep. However, when we rush past establishing the habits of readers, we run the risk of students losing their reading passion. When this happens they often develop fake reading habits and then then time is wasted and the standards become impossible to meet and the test prep is rote.

Take time today to establish the habit of being a reader. (On Friday I’ll write about about developing some habits of being a writer.)