Reading by example

So I am sitting tanning in the backyard and listening to a fantastic teacher resources, “Reading in the Wild”. The author Donalyn Miller is passionate about igniting the spark of a reader in everyone. It got me to thinking about the countless times that parents have said to me, “(insert student name) hates reading I just can’t get them to read”. My go to answer has always been that maybe what they like to read is not available or maybe what they have available is too difficult. But a big piece I was missing is that it is very likely the passion and desire to read, being a “wild” reader is not being modelled to them by me in the classroom or their parents at home.

I asked my students this year if they have noticed their parents reading at home, the response, “Does their iPhone count?” While it is possible they are demonstrating reading an article on a news site via said phone it is doubtful. When was the last time we as adults picked up a book and read for enjoyment?

Beyond that when was the last time we read to a child because we thought the book was so great? I make it a habit of buying children’s books. Mostly because I can use them in class for lessons and they can be super engaging but also because I can model strategies without it being a “boring” lesson. Because of the grade I teach (currently grade 6) the majority of my class is not working on breaking down or sounding out words. This is not something I need to model for my students as a whole class and frankly the experts say this type of teaching to kids at their age would be detrimental. I model thinking and fluency. We read with enthusiasm and take time to discuss what is happening in the text, what is said and sometimes more importantly what goes unsaid. Picture books are great because they tend to be a lower level than my students are reading at so they can all read the words. This gets us right to the thinking about what is going on. Character motivation, problem, inference work. All of these things are possible with most children’s books.

Students and children in general need an “expert” model when they are learning a task. As parents at home with your pre school age kids you do not put a book in front of them and  say, “Ok read it” You pick up the book your read it with fluency, characters come to life with different voices, you use dramatic pauses. Before long you think your 3 year old can read because they can recite that book you read every night, word for word ,and with just as much enthusiasm as you read it with. That is all because you have modelled it to them.

The same needs to occur if you want your older children to continue to be enthusiastic readers. Model the behaviour. Find a book you love and make sure they see you reading it, talk to them about it and ask them to tell you about what they are reading. Institute a quiet reading time in your home, in my classroom I aim for 40 minutes of reading time. Their choice of book and they find a place to sit and they read. I read too and sometimes I talk to them about their books and they ask me about mine. It is a pretty good system but there is always room to improve.

Here are a couple books you might want to check out in the kids section at the library or chapters or even better a locally owned book store.

Fantastic art and a great message on being courageous.
Another beautifully illustrated book. Wonderful message.
A story about loss and acceptance. This is a sad story but powerful message about loss. 

Well there you have it. Back to do a little more reading. My current read, “The Night Parade” Is fantastic. I will do a review later.

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