Friday, January 6, 2017

Be the (Reading) Change You Want to See

This is how we do Christmas in my family: books for the Grandma (yep, that's me, now!), books for the grandkid, and books for everybody in between. (I'll spare you all the photos of "everybody in between.") Great fun.

We've been back to school for 3 days. The first day back, a student walked into class and asked me, "What books did you get for Christmas, Mrs. Essenburg?" I was sure to tell all my classes about my second favorite gift--Hamilton: The Revolution. (My first favorite being getting to meet my first grandchild!) 

The second day, a student returned Ready Player One to me, and I passed it on to the technology coordinator. Another student returned An Ordinary Man, the autobiography of the man who inspired the movie Hotel Rwanda. I recommended Just Mercy, but she decided she was ready for a fiction book and took Underground Airlines. A teacher returned Return of the Prodigal Son and admitted she'd borrowed Half the Sky from my classroom over the holidays for a visiting relative, who'd loved it. I recommended The Heart and the Fist, which has gone missing from my library and I really need to replace, and she took down the information for an Amazon gift order. (This one made me a little nervous. I don't often make second-hand recommendations that require outlay of funds....) 

The third day, as I was doing walk-throughs of other classes in my role as curriculum coordinator, a student whom I don't even teach, in a class that was doing some independent work, raised his hand at me. I looked over my shoulder to be sure the classroom teacher wasn't behind me, then with a quizzical look, I walked over to him. "I finished that book." Oh! The Girl on the Train. I'd seen him reading it when I was on before-school locker bay duty before Christmas break, and I'd asked him if it was his and if I could borrow it when he was done. "Was it good?" "Yes! I'll bring it for you on Monday." Nice.

I've been writing a lot recently about instructional and assessment strategies, tricks of the teaching trade, so to speak. But don't forget the most basic precept: practice what you preach, walk the talk. As our school's values say, be the "living curriculum." As Gandhi more famously said, "Be the change you want to see." 

You want to see students reading? Read. It's a communicable disease of the best possible type. Let them see you reading. Talk to them about your reading and about their reading. Take their recommendations, and recommend books to them...and to your whole community! (Don't take my word for it--see this article on "7 ways to promote positive reading habits for older children" from the Washington Post.)

Reading correlates with more sophisticated writing, higher level vocabulary, greater knowledge of the world, higher IQ, empathy, success in college, and income level after. Why wouldn't we push this habit? 

You want to read, but you need some traction to get around to it? Here are a couple of suggestions. Join GoodReads and sign up for the annual reading challenge. (I'd joined GoodReads a number of years ago but shunned the challenge as too stressful--I wanted reading to stay fun. But this year I set myself an easily attainable goal, and it was fun to see progress, and SUPER FUN to see my reading year-at-a-glance when I was all done! See below.) So much data! As well as a graphic reminder of every book I'd read.

Or challenge yourself with the variety of one of those posters that challenge you to broaden your reading horizons, like the following photo.

Or follow my Pinterest board on reading (For the Love of Books)--or set up your own--and see a bunch of lists from "43 Books You Won't Be Able to Stop Talking About" and "A Reading Guide for Those in Despair about American Politics" to ""Top Ten Books to Give to Adolescent Boys Who Say They 'Hate Reading'" and "Ten Books for Teaching Kids the Importance of 'Taking Care of Others." (Btw, those last 2 are from The Nerdy Book Club blog. If you've read this far, you should subscribe. They've recently published their 2016 top-tens for everything from non-fiction picture books to YA lit.)

There are so many more ways to find great books to read and motivate yourself to read them. What are some ways you use?

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