My Army of High School Readers Goes Into Battle
So about a month ago, I imagined my Army of Book Nerds. I was going to train my tenth grade students to go out into the world as ferocious, voracious readers. I had a list of awesome things I was doing: shared Goodreads accounts, bulletin boards of suggested titles, a book room meticulously organized by subject and student interest. Today, sitting at my desk listening to Patty Smyth belt out “The Warrior,” this is what I’ve got:
I took the book recommendations down on October 1 to force myself to replace them with new ones. It’s November 4. Guess I’ll shoot for new recommendations bi-monthly?
Welcome to my meticulously organized book room.
We’re not even going to talk about the disaster that was the Goodreads accounts.
School is messy. Teaching is overwhelming. Some teachers manage to keep it all organized and keep all the balls in the air while they juggle grading and planning and new initiatives and parent phone calls. I’m not that teacher.
But, I’m not calling my army defeated just yet.
Last night I received the following email from one of my reluctant readers who I had previously had no success with matching to a book.
I just have to say that I’m about 92 pages into “Little Brother,” and this is the best book I have ever read! Thank you for assigning me to this book.
My book room may be messy, but check out how many of my books are being read!
And look how engrossed they are in their books!
Slowly but surely, I am beginning to establish a community of readers in my room. We read every single day with no exceptions. It’s only ten minutes, but I refuse to compromise that time.
And, I think it’s important that kids know that I love to read. These are all the books I’ve read since school started.
Ten minutes at the beginning of every class, every day means I’ve been able to power through quite a few books in two months. I talk about them as I’m reading; some of the books have since been read by students.
After a quick survey of my classes, I learned:
- 71% of my students identify themselves as readers–people who genuinely enjoy reading.
- 16% of students identified themselves as new readers! They’ve never thought of themselves as readers before this year, but they’re starting to enjoy it. That’s huge. One wrote a note on the bottom of the survey: “Keep introducing new material without taking no as an answer (p.s. thank you for that).”
But that leaves 29% of my kids who still do not enjoy reading. Of those, two thirds said they can’t find good books that interest them. The other third simply said “no time.” I need to target those kids and help them find the right books. And, I need to continue building time into my class for independent reading. What’s the point of soldiering on through a complicated whole class text if student are not willing to read on their own? What I’ve learned: Slow down. Find the right books. Give students time to read those books.
Because the students all need time. 55% of my “readers” say they never have time to read anymore. If they aren’t given time in class, they simply don’t do it–even though they love it! I asked for suggestions and they gave comments on their surveys like:
- “Create more hours in the day.”
- “No homework–just reading!”
- “Tell my swim coach I need time to read.”
They’re busy. I’m busy. That’s why most of my plans fell by the wayside. But reading doesn’t need to be a complicated set of plans and initiatives. We will keep marching along, and hopefully I’ll keep picking up new readers along the way.
Hattie Maguire is an English teacher and Content Area Leader at Novi High School. She is spending her fourteenth year in the classroom teaching AP English Language and Composition, English 10, Debate, and Practical Public Speaking. She is a National Board Certified Teacher who earned her BS in English and MA in Curriculum and Teaching from Michigan State University.
Notes from the Classroom