The Missouri Reader Vol. 42, Issue 1 - Page 52

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If you are like me, you have probably asked yourself, “How can I get my students to read more?” at least several times during your teaching career. As a teacher of mainly low performing, low motivated readers, I found that I asked myself that question a lot. I want to share with you some tips from Regie Routman’s (2003) book, Reading Essentials: The Specifics You Need to Teach Reading Well that have helped turn my students into avid, excited readers.

Routman (2003) dedicated a chapter of her book to the importance of having a well- stocked, well-kept library. She said, “Classroom libraries are a literacy necessity; they are integral to successful teaching and learning and must become a top priority if our students are to become thriving, engaged readers” (p. 64). Routman (2003) listed questions to ask yourself to evaluate the quality of your own classroom library:

Does your library jump out or is it invisible?

● Does it look inviting or bland?

● Do you have a variety of genres?

● Are the books written by well known authors?

● Do the books represent a mix of cultures?

● Are there comfortable places to sit and read?

● Do your students love to use it or is it rarely touched?

● Are the books current or dated?

● Do you rotate and replenish the collection as needed, or is it static and unchanging?

● Have students helped in the selection and organization process?

● Do struggling readers have access to books they want to read?

● “Does your library include children’s favorite authors, books, and series, or is the collection limited to what you have on hand” (p. 67)

After my self-evaluation, I realized my library was lacking in the last five bullet points. I have been a teacher for five years. It dawned on me that the majority of my library was either donated to me from retired teachers or bought from Goodwill during my first year of teaching. I didn’t select quality books because I didn’t have the money for them, and I just needed to have a stocked library on the first day of school. Of course my students weren’t excited about reading! My collection was old and uninteresting to my students. I made it my mission to buy new books that were appealing to them.

My first step in accomplishing my goal was to give my students a reading interest survey. Routman suggested, “Honoring students’ choices is not just about considering their wishes, students read more when materials they are interested in are readily available” (p. 68). I sat down with each one of my students at the beginning of the year and asked them a variety of questions to gauge their interests. Some of the questions were:

● Who is your favorite author and why?

● What was the last really good book that you read?

● What are you reading right now?

● What genre is your favorite?

I used the results of this survey to compile a list of favorite books, authors, and genres. The commonality that I noticed was that they loved series books. They love Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Wayside School, Stink, and Judy Moody. They also love Lego books, Littlest Pet Shop, and Barbie books.

I followed Routman’s (2003) advice when she said, “You may need to be outspoken, proactive, and creative to get the money, space, and permission you need to put children’s books in your classroom” (p. 81). So, I did just that and decided to ask my friends and family on Facebook for help. I created a wish list on Amazon with all the books that my students told me they liked. Then, I posted about my mission and included the link to my wish list. Here was my Facebook post:

Facebook family and friends, I am writing to ask for your generosity. I am making it my mission this year to get my students so incredibly excited about reading! Research shows that the more a student reads, the better their achievement scores are. As most of you know, I work with struggling readers in a low-income neighborhood. Most of my students do not have access to books at home or do not have access to a wide variety of them. I want to make it possible for them to be able to check out high

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Make Books Fly Off Your Shelves!

Theresa Bates

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