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Tips & Tools for Helping Students Set Reading Goals

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At the beginning of every school year, teachers around the world all have a common goal: to know their students as readers. They are conferring, listening, surveying, interviewing, etc. to get a sense of student interest and ability.  We all know that in order to get better at reading, students have to spend time reading.  Kylene takes it a step further in her Tweet from September 1, 2014: “More reading helps create better readers. More choice helps create passionate readers, Let’s create both.”  Easier said than done!  How do we put this theory into practice? Below are some tips and tools to help you help kids become more passionate about reading.

Tip: Find out as much as you can about your students as readers. One of the most worrisome situations is when kids have books in the home but don’t read them.  It is one thing to avoid reading because you feel you can’t do it, but it is another to have access but choose not to.  My students have reported that they have hundreds of books at home but are reading in the single digits over summer break and even during an entire year. This is a 911 situation!

Tool: Reading Surveys- Look for a survey that includes the estimated number of books in the home as well as the number of books students read over the summer and the number of books read last year. Shannon Clark has an excellent survey here that is based on the work of Donalyn Miller and Nancie Atwell. I know that my work is cut out for me when my students come from a literacy rich environment but aren’t interested in engaging in reading.

Tip: Help readers set goals.  I’m not talking about reading for incentives and prizes.  I’m talking about the real type of goal-setting.  The type that you can find adults engaged in on Goodreads, Twitter, or in the blogging community.  When kids receive rewards for reading, we are sending the wrong message.  Reading is its own reward.  Celebrate by offering more reading time and providing kids with books of interest.

Tool: The 40 Book Challenge- Using Donalyn Miller’s ideas to set an expectation for reading in your classroom can help inspire and motivate students to read. However, it’s not about the number!  I have been working on my #MustReadin2015 list and have been getting stuck on “how many…” Donalyn reminds us that it’s not about the number and certainly not a competition.  If you are skimming over this section, thinking, “yeah, yeah, I already do this,” STOP and go directly to The 40 Book Challenge Revisited. If we were giving out award for the top blog post of 2014, this cautionary post by Donalyn would get my vote. Here is an excerpt:

“The 40 Book Challenge is a personal challenge for each student, not a contest or competition between students or classes. In every competition or contest there are winners and losers. Why would we communicate to our students that they are reading losers? For some students, reading 40 books is an impossible leap from where they start as readers, and for others, it’s not a challenge at all.” Donalyn Miller, 2014

Tip: Confer with all students regularly. A common concern of teachers is effectively managing independent reading.  They are worried that kids are reading books that they haven’t read.  They are at a loss for what to say and do during reading conferences. We need to reframe this thinking.  It can be an advantage to confer with a child about a book that you, the teacher, haven’t read. Just as we teach the writer, not the writing when conferring in writing workshop, we need to teach the reader, not the reading when conferring with kids about books.

Tool: Readers Front and Center by Dorothy Barnhouse– This book changed my thinking about conferring with kids. Dorothy explains the role of the teacher, the student, and the book when she states, “Conduct research conferences. Our job is to get to know how our students think as they read. Books are our indispensible partners in this work.” (Closely Reading Our Students, 2014)  Dorothy has taught me to focus on the reader’s thinking and what they are working on as readers. We should not be quizzing them to uncover the plot or elicit a summary. We should follow their line of thinking to help them apply strategies as they develop interpretation of text.

When we understand how students are operating as readers: their reading habits, their reading stamina, and their application of reading strategy, we can better help them set goals and select books that match their interest and purpose for reading.

My final tip is to walk the walk. Set reading goals for yourself. My students set goals for reading over winter break, which included the books pictured below.  A tool that can help you set your reading goals is Carrie Gelson’s #mustreadin2015. The rules are simple; list the books that you will commit to reading in 2015.  It is a personal challenge.  There are no incentives.  It is not a competition.  It’s just the environment we want for our students as well.

How are you helping kids become passionate about reading? What kinds of books are you recommending for your students? I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments. If you have tips, tools, or book recommendations, please share. The Book is in your Court…

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2 responses »

  1. I also loved that post by Donalyn. Her wisdom and words need to be spread far and wide. Thanks for including the link to the #MustReadin2015 challenge. Such a lovely community of readers are participating!

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  2. Pingback: What Will Your Legacy Be? Celebrating Over a Decade as a Literacy Specialist | The Book is in Your Court

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