How do we do a better job of cultivating young readers?

Being nominated as one of the Global Teacher Prize Top 50 teachers, I have had an amazing opportunity to meet and work with other great teachers. Teaming up with Nancie Atwell, Vanesri Kasi, Noorjahan Sultan, Miriam Mason-Sesay, Aggeliki Pappa and Mareike Hachemer we had a chance to exchange our experience, challenges, worries and best practice in supporting students to read. During discussions we agreed that for a person to become a true reader, reading has to be turned into a habit. In order to obtain reading as a new habit we have to read regularly. So what are the central factors that motivate students to read?

Our group agreed that there are three main elements to become a reader:

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  • Available books;
  • Opportunity to read what students want and need;
  • Time to read at school.

 

I would like to share solutions we use in my school to meet those elements.

AVAILABLE BOOKS

We do not have a library at my school, to be honest. Cesis New Primary School is young (this is our third year) and so far we haven’t had funding to buy books for school, but it has never been an excuse for us to avoid reading.

There are two things we do:

  • We collect books from our and our friends’ homes. It takes time, but year by year we own more and more great books.
  • We go to the local library, which has become our second home. Our challenge has become our greatest opportunity – we not only have access to variety of books, but also a chance to learn how to use library for study purposes.
Library

Students frequently visit library to find books that are engaging for them.

OPPORTUNITY TO READ WHAT STUDENTS WANT AND NEED

A wide selection of books for kids helps engaging students in reading, but we’ve found that for some kids choosing a book that is engaging for them is a huge step, which needs some support. How do we help our students to find “their book”?

  1. We offer to start with magazines. Our boys started with Science Illustrated Magazine for kids and now have moved to reading books.
  2. When a student has finished reading a book or an article, they tell their peers what the book or article was about and what caught their interest. They put a few objects who represent the book in a sack for others to guess the book based on the objects.
Book presentation

A fairy cupcake recipe in the book inspired a girl to bake cupcakes for her book presentation.

 

Sacks of objects

Students put objects that represent the books they’ve read into sacks – for others to guess.

 

TIME TO READ AT SCHOOL

We do believe that regular reading is essential and to make it a priority, we need to find time for it every day. We have failed with reading time before lessons with some students arriving late, we have failed to have reading time after lunch when it’s hard to concentrate and we have failed to have reading time after lessons with some students leaving to music or art school. But we are not giving up and I believe we will find a solution for everyone.

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