Sunday, November 18, 2007
Our Life as a Reader
At Chets Creek, students are expected to read one million words a year. Why one million words? Research indicates that reading frequency and volume predicts reading success and overall academic achievement. Students who read a million words a year add about a thousand new words to their working vocabulary, develop higher levels of fluency, can comprehend text on a higher level, can write better, and become better spellers. Not to mention the knowledge they are exposed to when they are reading non-fiction text.
To read a million words in a year, a first-grader will need to read four picture books a day and a fifth-grader 25 chapter books a year. All types of reading count including self-selected books on a student's independent reading level, web site and digital text, newspapers, and magazines. Reading can take place in school and at home.
Research indicates that students who read on an average of 40 minutes a day fall in the 90th percentile; students reading 12 minutes a day fall in the 50th percentile range; students who read 2 minutes a day are in the 10th percentile. So, if we know that children become better readers when they read and reading helps them learn in school, what can we do to help?
Like many schools, we have text rich environments, leveled and genre libraries in our classrooms, a Readers' Workshop model that allows students to read in their independent levels during reading, and students keep book logs. Additionally, nightly reading is required as part of student's homework.
What we do, in my opinion, that sets us apart from some schools is that we lead our own lives as readers. We read leisurely. We read professionally. We read as part of a professional book study. We discuss our lives as readers with our students. We bring with us our nightstand books, our magazines, our professional reading text, our children's picture books, or we pull up our digital text and show students an interesting website we found the night before. We know that children read more when they see other people reading, so we model by showing our life as a reader.
We make our reading visible for all students, teachers, and parents. On the outside of our classroom doors there are four plaques that hang. One of the plaques highlights the books we are currently reading, and indicates our favorite texts. Some teachers write on the laminated paper with overhead markers, some type in their reading lists, and others print off a picture of the book jacket to display. Regardless of the manner in which the teachers display theIr reading, the purpose is the same. By making visible the books we are reading we are creating the expectation of our students' reading. This promotes dialogue that many times turns to book recommendations and book talks about literature. We are creating learners prepared for work in the 21st Century and reading a million words a year will be the norm not the exception. Happy Reading!