On Monday, during our Do-Now period, I had my students write me a paragraph about the reading they did over break. I assigned “vacation reading” before we left, after they filled out a survey listing books, magazines, newspapers, etc that they were looking forward to having the time to read over break.
As they wrote the paragraph, a few hands went up and explained that they hadn’t done any reading over break. I told them that was fine, but they needed to write me a paragraph explaining why. Today I finally had a chance to read over the Do-Nows and I found them to be very interesting. About 75% of my class read novels over break. I was regaled with tales of reading Twilight and 39 Clues: One False Note while hiding from family members!
The remaining students all wrote that they didn’t read over break because they were so busy relaxing. However, almost every single one of those students mentioned reading magazines and web sites. While I require that they read novels during reading time in school and for their home reading logs, I had explained before break that vacation reading was different. I showed them the magazines, novels, and websites I planned to read over winter break and each student made a list of things they wanted to read. Yet when the time came to brag about the reading they did, a quarter of my students didn’t count those magazines and websites. Why? Do we really do so much to convince kids that magazines, newspapers, internet pages and more aren’t “reading”?
I explain over and over that the reason I require novels for in-class and reading log reading is to build their stamina. But I thought I set a good example for other reading my talking about the professional reading and relaxation reading I also do. I think I need to do a better job of that, though. I need to make sure my students understand the many roles that books and words play in our lives. That’s one of the reasons I struggle with requiring students to complete a monthly reading log. Even though it only consists of the title, author, pages read, and a signature, I feel like it makes reading seem to be something you only do because a teacher makes you do it for homework. Yet when I don’t require a simple reading log, parents feel that their kids aren’t reading and tell me that during conferences. Reading logs serve as tangible evidence of the reading my students do. And they are simple! But I hate that some of my kids feel like the reading that they do doesn’t count.
A lot of my boys mentioned that they spent their vacation reading Sports Illustrated, the sports section, and other sports related text. Yet they didn’t consider this reading. Little do they know, Sports Illustrated is full of great writing! And it’s not simple, either. And reading 3 issues of Sports Illustrated is more self-directed reading than some of those kids have done all year. I need to make them understand that this counts as reading, too.
I don’t want them reading only magazines. Just like I don’t read only magazines. I read novels, professional literature, blog posts, picture books, newspapers, and more every.single.day. I NEED to make my students understand that all of this is reading, and that finding their reading niche is my goal for this year. So I vow to model more reading for them, besides novels. Hopefully, that will help!
NCTE is focusing on 21st Century Literacies in the coming months, and I think that this is something I am going to have to figure out in my own classroom. How can we help students take ownership of their reading in this multi-media age? And what do we define as “reading”?