That was my First Five for my grade 10 ELA students today.
I've been doing a lot of reading and research this past year on literacy, curriculum, and how reading affects test scores. It's no secret that Louisiana has consistently placed near the very bottom of the list when it comes to reading scores as compared on a national level.
There are a lot of factors that go into those national scores, such as NAEP scores, and it's not really accurate to say that all students in Louisiana are poor readers. That is far from the case. But for clarity, in this post, I'm looking at those poor readers. Many of them come from low income families who don't have books in the home, or are products of families where nobody has had time to read aloud to the children very often.
As a parent of two avid readers, I was reading to both of my kids before they were even born. As infants they were read to every single day. They've never seen me not reading at least one book and our house has always been filled with books and magazines. It's just who I am.
But that's not the case for many of my students.
Compounding the problem for these struggling readers is the Common Core curriculum in which students no longer read entire novels. I've written about that rather extensively here, here, and here. As teachers, we have been told that if a student wants to read the entirety of a novel from which we are only teaching certain chapters, "they can read it on their own."
Well, that's okay for a strong reader, but I know a lot of struggling readers who will not be able to take on the elements in The Scarlet Letter without some help, nor would it be a book they would willingly pull off the library shelf.
Additionally, there is a difference between academic reading for class and simply reading for the pure fun of it.
What I want to be able to do is to create life long readers; I want my students to leave my class having read several books of their own choosing, about topics that they are interested in, and that they are excited about reading.
And since my mandate is that they "can read on their own," I'm going to start a classroom library. Oh yes, we have a school library and it's wonderful. We have a librarian who orders books kids like to read and she listens to their requests and suggestions. But I also think that a classroom library can supplement that. And a student that might not make an effort to go to the school library might just access a classroom library.
Having a library in the classroom sends a message of literacy and encourages reading to students. If that library is filled with nice, interesting books, just waiting to be read, even better. I want my classroom library to be filled with books that my kids want to read and that are geared toward their interests and their lives.
In response to my First Five question above, about the last book you read, I got answers like this:
"I can't remember the last book I read. I hate staring at thousands of words and sitting still that long. I hate reading!"
"I don't know. I think it was a Goosebump book. I don't have time to read."
"I love to read books and I used to read all the time. I don't really know why I don't read any more. You can learn so much when you read."
That student is right. Reading can drastically increase a child's vocabulary. That in itself will increase test scores, but this isn't about test scores for me.
A lot of the responses indicated that they liked reading in lower grades but somehow just quit doing it.
I don't want one more child to leave my room not having read a book.
So, I have a plan. I've assembled an Amazon Wish List to start a classroom library and as this school year draws to a close, I am planning new things for next year. If I can't teach books in class, I'll do it out of class. I have plans to encourage students to read from my classroom library and to share what they've read with others. If I need to use incentives to get this started, I will. (A kid will read almost anything for a honey bun!) I have shelving and I have a corner space ready to go. It will be attractive and inviting.
I want this to be a fun experience; not like the old Accelerated Reader program where you had to read a book "on your level" with the proper color sticker on it and then take a ridiculous test on it to step your way up to a quota. Research shows that this program is useless. Kids that like to read will read anyway and kids that have to read to get an AR grade just learn to hate reading more.
With your help, I can establish a wonderful, enticing classroom library. Every student that enters my room will have access to good books.
I've started an Amazon Wish List and if you would like to help, you can go here, and order whatever you like and have it shipped straight to my classroom. I've already started assembling books on my own through thrift stores and through the library book sales and the college book fair. What I need now are nice, new books that pull my kids into a love of reading!
The list is here. It's long and I'm constantly adding to it. I hope that you will pick something to send to us that perhaps you enjoyed reading yourself. Additionally, any cash donations to the PayPal link in the sidebar will be used for this library.
And if you can't donate anything right now, please share this, or the list, to your social media and with your friends. I know people will help; I've seen it happen. When something is this important, people will help.
The Importance of a Classroom Library
NCTE Statement on Classroom Libraries
Building a Diverse Classroom Library
The 18 Reasons Not to Use Accelerated Reader
Mission Accomplished! (Accelerated Reader)
How to Stop Killing the Love of Reading
Education Report Card Shows Common Core Still Fails US Students
Does Common Core Hurt Minority Students the Most?
Louisiana Drops in Latest NAEP Report Card