Four Ideas To Flip Non-Readers Into Readers

If you get this blog by email, you get what I write, but not the comments from various friends who read the blog. A few days ago I posed a question about how to get kids who hate reading to truly come to like it. Particularly kids aged 11, 12, etc, whose negative views on reading may have hardened.

The full list of ideas is here. I'll highlight four ideas today.

1. Paul and Allison are a husband-and-wife teaching duo at Edward Brooke Charter School. Allison describes how her principal, Kimberly, rewrote learning standards with the help of teachers. She loves it.

We now have power standards like, “Can sustain reading for 45 minutes,” “Can identify his/her favorite genres and authors,” and “Can ask questions to monitor comprehension.”

More nit-picky standards like “Can identify cause and effect,” or “Can visualize while reading” have been either de-powered or eliminated completely.

We have half the number of standards that we used to....

2. Sarah Tantillo, author of the Literacy Cookbook, recommends a blog called The Book Whisperer. There's a book, too, which Amazon readers have given 5 stars, subtitled How To Awake The Inner Reader in Every Child.

Donalyn Miller says she has yet to meet a child she couldn't turn into a reader. No matter how far behind Miller's students might be when they reach her 6th grade classroom, they end up reading an average of 40 to 50 books a year. Miller's unconventional approach dispenses with drills and worksheets that make reading a chore. Instead, she helps students navigate the world of literature and gives them time to read books they pick out themselves. Her love of books and teaching is both infectious and inspiring. The book includes a dynamite list of recommended "kid lit" that helps parents and teachers find the books that students really like to read.

Vero, I need that, thanks. I'm particularly interested b/c it seems like a playbook for an individual teacher. These other ideas tend to rely on multiple teachers working together -- plausible at some schools, unlikely at others.

3. Paul gave some details about his 7th grade team's collaboration:

Book clubs! We have been inconsistent about implementing this, but when we have done it kids have really loved it. Sometimes, groups are made by the ELA teacher and the kids manage it themselves. We give them time to meet during one of those IWT blocks. We check in to make sure they are on task and continuing to read, and provide more guidance when they are having trouble.

This year, we split the 7th grade into 7 or 8 book clubs each led by an adult (all the 7th teachers, plus some administrative folks). I’ve loved talking with my kids about two great, pretty hard books – Nation and Matched. They were tepid on the first, but totally dug the second.

We originally sorted by preference; we might be reorganizing soon by reading level. What I’ve loved is talking with the kids about issue that I never get to in my classes – faith vs. reason, the nature of control in society, etc. I assign reading over the week – usually about 80-100 pages, and then we meet during the first IWT block on Friday.

4. Will runs a new charter school in New Bedford. He dropped a line about his wife:

Laura is a National Board Certified librarian who works in a middle school with 1000 kids. She’s doubled circulation since she’s been there. She says Manga count, I say they may be juking her stats a little.

Her favorite stories to tell when she comes home usually follow the format of: - Non-reader came to me last week and I found him the perfect book. - Non-reader came back yesterday and asked for more books like the one I gave him. - Non-reader read that book overnight and came back for more. Non-reader is now a reader!

Laura does a lot of “book talks,” throughout the school, which helps to create demand for lesser known but suitably high interest books. She generally reads 4 or so new YA books a week, so she’s up on all the latest lit.