What Kind of Readers Do We Want Our Children to Be?

I am a reader. I read all kinds of texts. Fiction, picture books, YA novels, magazines, poetry, blogs, you name it, I probably read it. (Well, maybe not much nonfiction, but I'm working on that.) In a recent professional development I was doing with teachers, I asked them to reflect on what kind of reader they were. Typically, when I ask my teachers to write, I do it as well. I started my own reflection and wish I had had more time to write that day. Coming back to my list, I added to it.

I am a reader who--

  • reads for pleasure.
  • gets totally lost in a book.
  • sees books as a relaxing escape.
  • can tune everything out when I read, including, screaming kids in the backseat.
  • has camped out in a store for a new book release.
  • has stayed up all night reading.
  • reads to her children.
  • visits the public library and encourages others to do so.
  • owns WAY too many picture books.
  • prefers real paper books over digital.
  • sometimes has a book hangover after reading a great book or series.
  • buys professional books to learn more. And more. And more. 
  • wishes she had more time to read. 
  • loves to talk to other readers.
  • believes that reading is a valuable, life-long skill that enhances life.

I am a reader.

When the school year started, my daughter would say that she didn't like to read. Now, mind you, she was a great reader, but she didn't like it. I tried everything-- new books, encouragement, audio books, BRIBES. Even the bribes didn't work. She hadn't found her place as a reader. On the first day of third grade, she entered her class and I visited with her teacher. I told her teacher, "I don't care if she passes STAAR, I want her to love reading!" (STAAR is our standardized test in Texas.) I knew that if she loved reading again, she would pass with flying colors.

So on that first day, her class was talking about reading. My daughter announced that she didn't like to read and there was a collective gasp in the room. Her class of readers were now on a mission to change her mind.

In the past, her school had done AR (Accelerated Reader.) AR motivated many of her friends, but not her.  To earn more points, you had to read thicker chapter books. This program did nothing to motivate her.

In comes the school librarian with a new idea...a Reading Bingo challenge! Students were able to earn spirit sticks by reading a wide range of texts, including many free choice books. They filled in a bingo card that encouraged a wide variety of texts. My daughter was hooked. She wasn't just a reader of thick chapter books, she was a reader of a variety of texts. She now loves graphic novels, poetry, nonfiction, fiction, picture books, AND some chapter books. She was encouraged to just read.

Flash forward to the end of this school year. My daughter--who now asks to go to the library, who reads in the car and who reads to her brother--read OVER 100 books this school year!  Yes, she did pass STAAR with flying colors- scoring advanced in reading. But, more importantly, she LOVES to read!

So I ask you to reflect. How are you encouraging students to be readers? What do you say or do, to show your students that being a reader is amazing? My experiences with my own child this year have helped me reflect on how and what we teach students about reading.

Take a minute and ask yourself--What kind of reader are you?


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