Friday, September 13, 2013

The Love of Reading: A Teacher's Story

Not all kids like to read.

There. I said it and I should know, I teach 8th grade language arts.

I don’t know about any of you, but I remember my 8th grade experience and it wasn’t at all fun or encouraging. I was forced to read, just like many of my current students have been in the past. Back when I was in school, I didn’t know that reading was anything more than something I was made to do and then be tested on. As for my students? Well, they are taught a whole new way because of my disastrous experience in middle school.

This will now be my new bi-weekly platform—talking about books I use with my middle schoolers to teach them reading and writing skills, plus infuse the love of reading into their lives.

We all wish for kids to grow up loving books and reading, but that is just not the case. Constantly demanding they read only classic literature in school and then testing them on the material will absolutely kill the love for reading! For this very reason, I give my students a 25 book reading requirement. LOL! Sound counter productive? It’s really not! The thing my students have is choice. Yes, they have to read different genres. Yes, they have to read 25 books this year. No, I don’t tell them what to read. I guide them.

I wish this would happen around the country in our schools, but alas it doesn’t. Choice. What does it take to encourage reading and choice? Knowledge. I HAVE to know what the latest YA books are. I have to have read a lot of books, so that I can actually sit and talk with my teens about books. I have to be totally and completely invested in their love of reading. This all takes time and money. And lots of it!

I use my classroom funds each year to purchase books. This year it was only enough to purchase 15 hardcover books, which means that I’ll be spending quite a large sum of my own money on books for the rest of the year. I do this so my students have access to books at all times. We do visit the school library bi-weekly, but this isn’t enough. I make sure to surround my students with the latest titles and the minute they are interested in a new one, I make sure to get it. That’s how to encourage reading.

Plus, I read. They see me with a book. I talk about my books. I find book trailers and share them with the students. Anything to get them reading; peak their interest. I work really hard to keep up with the latest trends in YA and always share it.

Does this mean that I never assign a book for everyone in my class to read? Nope. I do. In fact, we are currently reading THE OUTSIDERS. I’ll talk about that next time, but for now here are a few photos of my bookshelves and the piles of books I am working on covering. Kids are already reserving them!!!!

I realized when I went looking through my photos, that I don't have great ones of my shelves. I'll take a few and post them later on today.


  1. I used to teach, and I agree...not all kids grow up loving to read. In my children's circle of friends, even the boy who was in the running for class valedictorian told me "I never read for pleasure. I only read the stuff the school tells me I have to, and I don't like those books."

    While I think there's a place for the "classics" in schools, I think sometimes it's more important to encourage kids to ENJOY reading and WANT to read than to teach them how to analyze the symbolism in Of Mice and Men or figure out what the whale represents in Moby Dick.

    On the other hand, some schools are getting it. My younger daughter's middle school assigned The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy for summer reading. The town high school one year assigned one of *my* books (and man, wasn't I glowing about that!) My daughter, now in high school, does have to read some "classics", but her teacher also assigns a certain amount of free-choice reading throughout the year. I think some schools feel it's too much work for teachers to assess students who aren't all reading the same thing, but is assessment really what's important? Or are we trying to prepare kids for life after school?

  2. I don't believe all this testing we do is necessarily showing us what our students will do in life. I see the downturn of the way teens think and respond, rather they are unable to do so. The constant need to spit out answers without thinking has them unable to be deep thinkers. Common Core is suppose to be the answer, but without teachers who truly show kids how to think and how to make decisions, it won't work.

    And having a few stories that can be the basis for class discussion and response are wonderful! Gives us a common ground:)