In my time as an educator, I’ve come to realize that it is important for me to go beyond telling students to do things I think are important to showing them that I do these things as well. Basically, I need to demonstrate to students that I “practice what I preach” and I try to never ask my students to do something that I’m not willing to do myself. This is especially true when it comes to reading. As teachers, our reading lives can be fairly invisible to students. I think it is important for us to make our reading lives visible. There are many students who don’t have a lot of books at home and who don’t have many reading models in their lives. I argue that as educators, we should actively seek to be reading models for both our students and our various communities. I want to share some of the things I do and ideas I have for the future. I would love to hear your own ideas.
Short Book Talks
Something I do on a regular basis with my classes is share what I’m currently reading. I started this when I taught high school, and I had some pretty decent conversations. I realized last year that this could also be useful for my college students, so I started doing this again in all my classes. It only takes about 2 minutes, so it doesn’t need to be a burden on class time. I like to bring the physical book to class when I have it. After I talk about the book, I pass it around. This allows students to hold the book in their hand and explore it further. If I’m sharing an audio or eBook, I include a related visually striking image in my presentation slides for the day. This term I am considering adding a discussion board on book recommendations and encourage students to use it. This way I can also provide the titles in writing so students can easily reference them if they want. I also tell them when books I read are available in the campus library, local library, or our Little Free Library.
“I am Currently Reading” Sign
Where I did my student teaching, every teacher in the school had a sign outside their classroom door that said what they were currently reading. Example: “Mrs. Becker is Currently Reading…” Having the signs laminated allowed teachers to use their dry erase markers to change the titles and keep the signs up to date. If I remember correctly, the school library provided the signs. These signs sparked good conversations between teachers and students about various books. When I got my own classroom, I decided to do the same thing. I printed off a similar full sheet, with a reading quote I love, and put it in a clear sheet protector outside my door (this works just fine with dry erase markers). I had some really fun conversations with students. I got to give and receive a lot of book recommendations. When I switched to college and no longer had my own classroom, I decided to put the sign up outside my office door. I made one for my office mate as well. I plan to provide signs for anyone in my department who wants one in the near future. I have a half page template and a full page template that you are more than welcome to copy or change to fit your purposes. (Note: Since I am currently using these signs at the college level, they use first names.)
Reading Life Door
I recently came across The Book Whisperer Donalyn Miller’s Reading Life Door. While I work in a shared office and don’t have my own classroom space, I find this idea intriguing. If you do an internet search for “reading life door” (be sure to do an image search too), you’ll find some interesting ideas. Is anyone doing this or know someone else who has a Reading Life Door?
Take Students To the Library to Choose Books Before Breaks
When I was teaching high school, I wanted to give students an opportunities to choose books to read on their won. As you may know, the day before any break tends to be a bit unorthodox. I started taking my students to the library for the last 15 minutes of class before going on break. This allowed them to browse and check out books they could read at home. Taking students to the library also allowed me to demonstrate through action and opportunity how important it is to read on your own time. Students typically were very pleased with this and almost all of them voluntarily checked out books.
Faculty & Staff Recommendations in the Library
While I have not done this one myself, I’ve had some discussions with librarians who want to start offering faculty and staff picks. This could be done either through a display, or through the recommendations slips you sometimes see in bookstores. I’m sure this could also be done in poster or other creative formats.
This idea is talked about a lot, especially at the elementary level. I started my own class library when I taught high school history. This allowed me to have books ready on hand to discuss, recommend, and lend to students. I was also able to incorporate the books into lessons when relevant. Since we had the school library, I focused the collection in my room on history and historical fiction surrounding the specific topics we studied.
Little Free Library
In the past few years, Little Free Libraries (aka book exchanges, community book shelves, book boxes, etc.) have been springing up around the country, as well as around the world. The idea is that anyone is allowed to borrow a book, take a book, or leave a book for others. While the concept has existed for some time, the Little Free Library organization has allowed it to expand at a prodigious rate. Between 2009 and 2016, over 36,000 Little Free Libraries (LFLs) officially registered with this non-profit organization. I believe there are many more little libraries out there that are not registered and don’t appear on the official map. For several reasons, I decided to install a Little Free Library on my university campus. Some of these reasons included making our reading community more visible, encouraging discussion about books read outside of the classroom, increasing access to books in our small rural community, and normalizing reading as a leisure activity for students who don’t tend to see this as a reasonable option (especially when they are loaded down with assigned readings). It is located in the hallway outside of my office, which is just outside our tutoring center and just down the hall from our TRiO offices. A wide variety of students pass by the shelves every day. The LFL has been open for just over 8 months, and about 300 books have passed through the exchange. There is no ongoing budget for the LFL, and all books are donations from the community. I was recently asked if I would help set up a second LFL in another building on campus. Of course, I agreed.
Allow Students to Share
Lately, I’m considering how to make it easier for students to share their own reading within the classroom. Book talks are a possibility, as well as using my online Learning Management System. If you have any suggestions on this topic, I would love to hear them.
Favorite Books of 2015
Over the past year, I rearranged my personal time and was able to read a lot more books than usual. I joined a YA Lit book club, started listening to audio books on a regular basis, got to a lot of books I planned to read for a long time, and completed my first reading challenge, Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge 2015. I also decided to map my reading to see how diverse (or not diverse) my reading was with the Around the World 2015 challenge. For 2016, I plan to do the Read Harder and the Read Around the World challenges again, as well as the Panels Read Harder Challenge for comic books. I plan on reading more books set in South America, more books in translation, more books involving athletics, and more comic books and graphic novels.
In the interest of sharing reading and having good conversations about books, here is my list of top ten favorite books I read in 2015 in alphabetical order. And yes, over half of them are Science Fiction. With its capacity to easily discuss deep and important questions, it’s by far my favorite genre.
- An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
- Between the World & Me
- The Crossover
- The Giver
- The Martian
- The Power of Habit
- Ready Player One
- The Seeds Project Interviews
- Station Eleven
- World War Z
How do you share what you are reading with students? How do you help students share their reading with each other or with you? Do you have experiences with LFLs as either a steward or a patron? What are your favorite books?