Recently I was rereading Jan Richardson's The Next Step in Guided Reading, I came across a small section in her book about engaging independent readers.
in this post. While most of the book is dedicated to planning and teaching your guided reading groups, she did write some about activities the other kids are engaged in while you're teaching.
This quote about intermediate readers struck a nerve:
1. Yes! That's amazing! And simple! And so understandable! And the kids will get it!
2. Hey, wait. What about the fifth grader who picks "Go, Dog, Go"? Because there is always that one kid.
I can't help it, after 17 years of teaching reading, my brain goes straight to the level. BUT what if we ignored the level and instead thought about why that child is choosing Go, Dog, Go. Helping him find the right level isn't going to solve this student's problem.
Because that kid probably doesn't really want to read Go, Dog, Go. Other than a quick trip down memory lane, most fifth graders have more sophisticated interest levels than Dr. Seuss. He'd probably rather choose a text that he finds interesting but doesn't know how to do that or believe it even exists.
Engaging and supporting readers takes a big time and effort investment on our part. Spending time getting to know a student, pulling resources, coaching a student to create engagement is hard work. But it is worth. Guiding a student to books in the blue zone does none of these things.
If you’re looking for more ideas helping engage readers, here are some great resources:
But wait a minute-what about the just right book?
The just right book is a real thing and has it's place in the reading world. When students are still learning to read, it is our job to select their instructional materials at a just right level. Let's face it-Level E books are not the most engaging texts in the world. Their purpose is to teach kids to read, not to create students who love to read. Once students begin reading more independently, pleasure reading should be, well, pleasurable.
How many of us are reading YA novels? I enjoyed Percy Jackson, Gregor the Underlander, and the Hunger Games series as an adult. I recently reread Daddy Long Legs because my fifth grader was reading it, and I have always loved that book. These may be well below my reading level, but I loved every minute of it.
What are you doing to create a love of reading in your classroom? I’d love to hear your ideas!