Are you ready for something that you may not already know about me, Radical Nation?
While I have been a science teacher for the past ten years, I spent the first fifteen years of my career teaching an integrated language arts and social studies class to sixth graders. That means I know a thing or two about developing literacy skills in students — even if I haven’t been the primary teacher responsible for developing those skills in my students over the past decade.
And one of the things that I’ve been passionate about for my entire career — regardless of the subject that I’ve been teaching to kids — is making my own reading transparent to the kids in my classroom.
Silent reading happens in my room two days a week. I take the students of our team to the media center for circulation time. I book talk good reads to my kids and have a well-developed classroom library and work hard to get good books into the hands of kids who might not otherwise read anything. I’ve helped to plan and run parent/child reading groups in our school.
My goal is really a simple one: I want my students to know that reading is something I value because I want it to be something that THEY value, too. I also want them to see me — a sports-loving, spastic, full-grown, wide-open dude — as a reader.
That’s super important primarily because a ton of boys give up on reading in middle school because it’s not always seen as a “cool” thing to do. The way I see it is that if even one sporty boy decides to keep reading because he knows that Mr. Ferriter does it, too, then I’m winning.
To make my love of reading even more transparent this year, I’m stealing an idea from my friend Pete Caggia: I’ve created a space on my board where I’m sharing the covers of the books that I’ve already read this year AND the cover of the book that I’m currently reading.
Here’s what it looks like so far:
(click to enlarge)
There’s nothing fancy about this, y’all. It’s literally just a bunch of laminated book covers hanging on my board.
The potential in that small corner of board space, however, is HUGE. I’m sure it’s going to catch the attention of my students because I almost never write anything on the board anymore. Colorful covers on a blank, white space are bound to make a kid or two curious.
More importantly, every cover and curious kid becomes potential conversation with me.
My hope is that kids of all kinds — readers and non-readers, sporty boys and artistic girls and introverts and extroverts and gamers and makers and swimmers and musicians and straight A students and all C students — will start asking me questions about the titles that I’m reading.
Those questions — “What’s Death Watch about, Mr. Ferriter? It sounds creepy” , “What’s the best book you read Mr. Ferriter?” , or “Does Etiquette and Espionage have a girl as the main character, Mr. Ferriter?” — are all entry points to the kinds of impromptu discussions that might just convince my students to pick up a book and give it a try. And even if they don’t pick up a book, every impromptu discussion will reinforce the notion that reading matters — and that people of all shapes and sizes can be energized by something that they’ve read.
So here’s my question for you: What’s YOUR plan to build a love of reading in your students?
What are you doing to show them that reading matters as something more than a skill that you learn because you have a high-stakes exam at the end of the school year that you have to pass? How do you model a love of reading for the kids in your classrooms?
Related Radical Reads: