Implementing a successful choice reading program takes so much freaking work.
This year, since I’m teaching in a new school, it’s been even more work to get us started.
I’ve known quite a few teachers who give up on choice reading when they see that their students aren’t reading at home, or that they’re just abandoning books, over and over again.
We need to help our unmotivated readers find the books that they want to read.
They don’t know how. That’s why they don’t read. If every book you’d ever tried was too hard, or too boring, would you read for fun? Me neither.
We need to read, too.
If you’re an English teacher who hasn’t read a book for pleasure since 1994, how the heck can you inform recommendations for students in 2016? The first year that I implemented choice reading in my class, I read 85 books during the school year. I read for ten minutes every night, and instead of killing time with my phone, I brought my choice book instead. Because I read so much that year, and continue to read so much each year, I know exactly which books fit which students.
And guess what? YA Lit is REALLY GOOD these days.
I don’t know this community or students as well as I did in my last school, which makes matching students and books a lot harder. I started us off with book talks and a book pass in my writing elective right away, but it took us a bit longer to get started in my co-taught American Studies class.
Despite waiting a few weeks to kick-off choice reading in that class, students had already started noticing and perusing my bookshelf, anxiously asking when we’d start reading their “private books.”
(Side note: Isn’t “private books” the cutest term for “choice books” you’ve ever heard? They came up with it, and I’m going with it.)
We read for the first ten minutes of class. I check in with them and monitor for understanding. (Sometimes I model, but I usually don’t have time to!)
They do have a reading log, where they track their pages, but I don’t grade it. It’s data for me to inform recommendations and conferences.
Some students have tested the waters and tried just not reading, but when they realize that I’m just going to keep suggesting book after book after book, and they see that I won’t give up…they keep trying new books.
Some students have already finished a book (or two!), and others have already abandoned a book or two. But the best part? They look forward to our reading time.
After they finish a book, they don’t do a project. They don’t write about their choice books. We just celebrate their reading achievements with a high five and a link on a paper chain.
We read to get better at writing. We read to get better at reading. We read to build competency in reading the things we might not like, or that we might not understand the first time around. We read to reread, to connect, and to learn new things.
We read to remember what it was like to love to read.