|2011-01-03||Steve Gardiner||Creating a Culture of Reading in a School|
It is no secret that getting high school students to read can be a challenge. There is a resistance to reading that often sounds like, “Reading is boring,” or “I don't have time to read,” or “What a waste of time.”
Getting past that resistance is not easy, but it can be done. We haven't eliminated those complaints from our school, but they are heard far less often now after we created a culture of reading in the school.
It started with several teachers giving students time to read in class. Sometimes called SSR (sustained silent reading), DEAR (drop everything and read), DIRT (daily independent reading time) or other acronyms, independent reading time is the key to creating reading enjoyment for students. They choose their own books and read them both in class and outside class.
As more and more teachers have joined in this voluntary movement, students have learned that reading is important to teachers, reading can be interesting, they do have time to read, and teachers are unified in promoting reading and related skills in our school. With more teachers using SSR in classes (most English teachers do as well as some health education, biology, and social studies teachers) students are getting used to carrying around a reading book. It has become part of their daily lives, and because of this, students are used to seeing other students carrying books. They ask about the books and give impromptu book reports in the hallways or at their seats before class starts. Conversation about books has become a standard part of the school day.
Because students carry books with them, they are behaving more like adult readers all the time. It is common to see students sitting on the benches in the hallways reading a book. The ramp leading to the parking lot behind the school and the steps in front of the school are often lined with students reading while they wait for a ride after school or after sports practice.
With more students reading books daily, we needed a place for them to share, so two teachers in the school created the Read It Forward Project (explained in detail in another article on this web site and linked on the home page) which allows students or teachers to post reviews of books they have read, read what others have shared about books, and get ideas for books they want to read in the future. In the past six years, students and teachers have written thousands of book reviews and shared them on the Read It Forward site.
Giving time to read in class, creating a forum for sharing ideas about books, expecting students to carry a reading book with them, and promoting discussions of the books students are reading for enjoyment have all contributed to creating a culture of reading in our school, a culture that is helping promote and improve literacy skills across the curriculum and is fostering a more academic and literate atmosphere throughout the school every day.