My Reading Identity

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I believe I might drive people around me crazy with my talk of books.  I am always collecting books, reading books, talking about books and sharing books.  Reading is such an important aspect of my life, I just can’t help myself.

I am inspired to write this post by my latest book, “Passionate Readers,” written by Pernille Ripp.  Pernille is the founder of the Global Read Aloud and I am sure she would do anything to get the right book into the hands of a child.  She believes strongly in reader choice and is working tirelessly to promote the love of literacy in our students.

In her book, she challenges her readers to think about their own reading identity.  My earliest memories of reading are directly connected to my father.  He has always been an avid reader and continues to find great joy in the time he spends reading now that he is in his 80’s.  When I was a child we would curl up and he would read many things to me but especially all the adventure of Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne.  Over the years we have had many conversations about the things we were reading about.  For many years, it was my tradition to buy him a new book every Christmas.  He would often give it back to me to read so we could talk about it.

My father reading “The Night Before Christmas”

These early experiences I have had with books influence me on a daily basis.  I have always wished I could instill in every one of my students my inner passion and love for reading.  It didn’t matter if I was teaching early years, my high school students I spent 20 years with or now with my middle year’s students. I read aloud to them as I can and talk reading every chance I have.  When I look back over some of my teaching strategies, I would like to go back and make some changes, such as long reading responses and killing the joy of a good book by pulling it apart into unnecessary pieces, rather than appreciating it for what it was.

Idea was taken from Passionate Readers

At the same time, I have never wanted to go back and change the time we spent reading aloud and enjoying good books together.

To bring this around to where I am right now, I realized I needed to renew my relationship with books by making reading time a higher priority in my daily life and not just something I save for school breaks when it seems easier to take the time.  My grade 6 students spend a lot of time reading, sharing and enjoying literature together.  I have such an enthusiastic and wonderful bunch of students, many of which share my love of reading.  We call ourselves “The Fam Jam” and because of that, we need to make sure we are all working together just as a family would.  I am always looking for that reading magic that will pull in my more reluctant readers.

Reading choice is my friend.  Our reading time is sacred.  Every member of “Fam Jam” gets to choose the things they like to read.  This is not always the way it has been in my classroom, but now that I have embraced the importance of student voice and choice, I would never go back. My students also know it is okay to not finish a book.  If you walked into our classroom when we are choice reading, many of us would not even know that you were there.  I tell my students about one when I was reading along with my high school students and one of them crawled out the window and then came back in, just because he could. We had a good laugh, but okay…even I realize that being that focused on what I am reading might not be a good idea in the classroom.

Grade 6 “Fam Jam” during choice reading

I am constantly ordering or borrowing books.  Let’s just say, Amazon and Scholastic are some of my best friends along with our school library and our local community library.  I have been trying to build up our classroom library and listen to what my students need to have included.  We keep a running list of books we might like to purchase or borrow.  We have read 288 books as a collective group so far this year.  Our goal is 500 and I think we are going to make it.

Our book count we change daily.

My reading identity is tied to the joy I have in reading and focused on sharing my love of reading with my students.  Pernille Ripp says it best in her book, Passionate Readers,

“…we must approach each day with an incredible sense of urgency.  We must fill our minds with the research we need to support our ways, and we must be passionate about the things we see as most important to further reading success-in my case, it means giving the students time to read within our short time together, finding a way to confer with each child, incorporating as much choice and freedom as possible, and doing meaningful work with our reading rather than ‘get it done’ tasks.”

Well said!

 

 

For the Love of Reading

https://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/8435321969/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/8435321969/

I taught high school English in a smaller rural school for 20 years and enjoyed almost every minute of it.  Throughout my time there I always wished that I could help my students understand my love for learning and especially my love of reading and how the two of them were related.  I wanted them to be able to pick up and book and enjoy reading as much as I did.

 

It seems like everywhere I turn lately, we are focused on data…collecting data, reading data, acting on data.  Now, don’t get me wrong,  I definitely see the payoffs to correctly using data.  I think data makes us much more focused on our goals and it also helps us see where we need to change out actions in order to improve the achievement of our students.

We have been closely focused on our reading data since last spring when we realized our early learning  students were not progressing as fast as what we might have liked.  We asked ourselves what we could do to support and promote continued improvement in our young students and we have put many things into place that are making a positive difference.

There are a couple of important things that I feel can happen if we get too focused on our data and forget that a data set is only one part of an important picture.  Data in itself does not tell the whole story of a student, or a classroom, or a teacher or a school.  Most teachers and administrators will be able to tell you a whole story of the achievements and progress of each of their students.  The story is very different for each student and is filled with ups and downs, celebrations and reflections and corrections.

The other thing that might happen if we become too focused on our data and is a loss of the love of learning I was speaking of at the beginning of this post.  I have been doing a lot of reading lately about the love of reading and how important it is for our students and their reading achievements to enjoy books, see a purpose for books and reading and have opportunities to read just for the love of reading.

Grade 3's Reading to Others
Grade 3’s Reading to Others

It is important for them to choose books that are interesting to them and to read them for enjoyment and not just for the purpose of analyzing or taking the story apart bit by bit in a quest to check for comprehension.  It is also important for them to realize there are many ways to read a book and it is okay to enjoy a picture book no matter what your age.  Not everyone enjoys fiction or non-fiction equally, so choosing our own books to engage in, opens up the opportunity to discover what we know, what we want to learn and how we learn best.

Kindergarten
Kindergarten

I used to read aloud to my students a lot.  I didn’t really care if they were in grade 7 or in grade 12, I read aloud to my students frequently.  I shared all the short stories that I loved because they had twisted endings, such as Shirley Jackson’s “Charles” or Roald Dahl’s, “The Landlady”.  I shared my favorite authors and brought people in to read to my students often.  I still enjoy reading to students any opportunity that I have.  I start every year, as a principal, going into each of my kindergarten through grade 5 classrooms and read one of my favorite picture books.  I have to admit that when a student asks me to sit and read to them or listen to them reading I can’t turn them down.  It seems to me,  like there is nothing else that should take priority in that moment and I can’t make myself miss the opportunity to connect with our student over a good book.

I was in one of our early years classrooms last week and they were just preparing for their first session of Daily 5 that morning.  I watched one of our struggling readers grab his book bag with excitement and settle into a comfortable spot and begin to focus solely on his books.  The funny thing was, he was not actually doing what the teacher had requested, but he didn’t even realize it because he was so focused on what was in front of him.  For me it was a moment of triumph and made me very proud of his progress.  Certainly a time to focus on the success and not the lack of listening.

Grade 1 Daily 5
Grade 1 Daily 5

I have distinct memories as a child being so excited about going to the school library.  The rows and rows of books waiting to be read and sitting on the floor in front of Mrs. Walleen as she read aloud one of her favorite books.  On some days when I walk into our school library and I am watching a class of students pick out new books,  I can flash right back to those special moments I had as a young student.

My love of learning has a direct correlation to my father.  He taught me from the time I was a very young child to love books and we would spend hours curled up together reading everything “Winnie the Pooh”.  When I grew up and had children of my own, my father read to them and bought them many books.  I carried on his habits by reading endlessly to my children, sharing all of those books from my childhood.

My dad and my girls
My dad and my girls

My father is in his eighties now and continues to make learning a priority, reading every day, sharing his love of learning with his grandchildren, searching out things to learn about on the internet, learning how to share using Facebook, following blogs and really the list would go on and on.

Since the beginning of September we have been doing reading groups with our grade 1 students every day.  Our RTI teacher and the classroom teachers have divided them up into small groups of 4 or 5 students and every day at 10:30 they quickly grab their reading bags, find their leaders and excitingly go off for their reading.  We have called it ROAR, which stands for, Really Excited About Reading and they are really excited. If for some reason we do not have ROAR, which is not very often, they are kind of miffed, and not very happy about it.  They are reading for the love of reading and they do not even know it is improving their reading data.  The other really exciting thing about ROAR is that we have been able to involve some of our parents and even some of our older students in leading our reading groups.  It feels like a really community effort and I thank our RTI teacher who works endlessly to keep it going.

Even as I sit here right now writing this post I have a book that is calling out for me to continue reading. It is a joy in my life.  I will always thank my father, my teachers and my librarians that instilled in me as a child, the love of reading.

There are countless things going on in a classrooms and schools everyday, but whatever we do…let’s not forgot to read for the love of reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roaring into Reading

reading2

One of the things I feel I need to improve on is using our data to drive our goals and instruction at the school level.  The more I work with data, the more I appreciate the information we are able to gather from it, and it’s usefulness when it comes to achieving our school goals.

As we approached the end of last school year we realized our early learning reading scores were not as high as we would like them to be, and some of our students had not made as much improvement with their reading as we would have liked to see.  We decided as a staff that we needed to dedicate our efforts to the improvement of our young readers.  After much research and discussion we decided front loading of phonological awareness skills was where we were going to start.  Our student support teachers organized groupings according to our May benchmarking scores and set about planning and getting materials prepared to hit our students hard with small group phonological awareness and reading, on a daily basis, as soon as we returned to school in the fall.

We decided to call our groups ROAR, which stands for Really Outrageous at Reading.  We started first thing Monday morning on the second week of school.  We divided our grade ones and twos into small groups with each adult taking a group every day for 20 to 30 minutes.  We are using  the classroom teachers, principal, student support teachers, custodian, educational assistants, library technician, office administrator, counselor and speech language pathologist to run our groups. It is a real testament to the strength of our school team, when so many members are willing to help.

 

reading3

At the beginning of the week our little students seemed a bit reluctant and unsure about what was going on.  The second morning when I asked my group members if they had read their books at home, not all of them replied yes, but as the week went by the excitement for the groups continued to grow.  Pretty soon the students couldn’t wait to line up and get to our rooms so we could get started.  Now when I ask them all if they have read their books at home and practiced their sight words, they usually reply with a rounding yes!

A typical group meeting would begin with a new book.  As we are reading the book we are talking about letters, blends, syllables, rhymes and making predictions about what is coming next.  We spend some time recalling events after we are finished reading, then  move on to play a game involving sight words, letter sounds or something along those lines.  Every few days the group leader will change-up the game and we rotate books and activities on a regular basis.

reading

ROAR has been a lot of work for our student support teachers who spent endless hours in June getting all of our reading materials and activities ready.  They have met with our staff and trained all of us, teaching us the routines we needed to follow on the daily basis.  Our two student support teachers are the ones we go to if we are having any problems or issues along the way.

We plan to carry out ROAR for about 8 weeks, then screen all of our students to see if they have made any improvements in our reading scores from May data.   My guess is we will see improvements.  We hope to do ROAR again this year with our young students and hopefully move into our other age groups as well.

reading4

It has been such an honor for me to be involved with our reading groups.  It is fun to be up close and personal with our early years students and I can’t help but be excited by their enthusiasm for learning.  I can’t wait to see the data we gather from our screening in October and  look forward to being involved with our next ROAR project.