This year I’m teaching an amazing class of 28 Year 3 & 4 students – aged 7-9 – 18 boys and 8 girls.
I noticed during term 1 that whenever we did silent reading (SSR/DEAR/personal reading) that many students wouldn’t read, or they would choose books with more pictures than words and then just flip through them.
As a reader myself this bothered me a little, but also as someone who has done things like daily 5 reading this was problematic. I had a range of reading abilities from an ESOL student who was still learning to read in English to a number of students who enjoyed gutsier books.
One day early in Term 2 I came up with an idea and shared it with my class. I would challenge them to collectively read 100 books over the term. If they managed to get 100 then they could plan an afternoon of fun activities. They thought this was a great idea – and given that the Hell Pizza reading challenge was starting at the same time they would get double rewards. I drew up a thermometer (along with an interesting discussion on that that was and how it was normally used!) and ambitiously put a top count of 500.
Term 2 started on April 30th. By May 24th – less than a month – they had read 100 books! Less than a month after that (June 22nd) they had read their 2nd 100 books – they were on a roll. By the end of term they had hit their 3rd hundred (July 6th).
We had a few rules:
- They could read any book they liked but only fiction books would be marked off – on both my spreadsheet and the Hell Pizza wheel;
- I allow graphic novels – but if they are reading a series of them and are capable readers I only record the first one;
- They are allowed to choose their own books – I don’t look at a book and tell the student it’s too hard (or too easy) for them – I let them make that choice.
I have a class of readers. It is quite normal for some students to have several books on the go.
My students who just love reading – almost more than breathing – have permission to read whenever they can. I note down the titles of their books – my most prolific reader read 21 books in 10 weeks – he reminds me of my younger self.
And the parents are noticing. One parent waylaid me on my way to class to ask me what on earth I’d done to the children – they were all sitting at their desks reading while they waited for me to finish crossing duty and come back to start the day.
I was away sick for a week – when I got back I overheard one student say to another student – “Great – now we can get more reading done!” (Apparently the relieving teacher didn’t realise that the norm for them is to always have a book on their desks so they can read whenever they have finished a task.)
And the unexpected results?
Everyone’s reading improved – without me pushing them. I have 7-9 year olds who say to me – “don’t count that last book – it was too easy for me” or “I didn’t really get into that last book so I’ve swapped it for something else” or “I’m bored with the type of books I’ve been reading and am going to try a different type”. They are becoming discerning readers as well as readers who love to read. And my ESOL student – his reading has surpassed where I wanted it to be for the end of the year – not because I’ve done wonders but because he’s had choice of his own reading material – and reads.
It seems I stumbled upon something that others have written about. By giving students choice over their reading, they become motivated to read. There are many articles about this:
- Letting children choose what they read;
- A reading revolution – students choose their own books;
- How to motivate students – let them choose their own books;
- And more – just google it.
What about Term 3?
Guess what’s going to be happening in my class next term? Yep – we’re going to be reading again (and yes I read as well!). I wonder if we will hit 500 books this term?