Saturday, 8 August 2015

For the love of reading...

Ontario Overall Reading Expectations

Thank you Aviva @avivaloca and Pernille @pernilleripp, you've got me thinking about reading.

I've always loved to read. Much like Pernille recollects during her Ignite at Nerdcamp, I don't even remember proper instruction until much later. My mother recalls that as an early reader, I taught myself to read before starting school, my aunt had me read her Economics text book to prove it to them both. Although I'm sure they both had a huge part of my developing brain and Science can back me up on that.

Even when the reading homework was at its height, AP English Grade 12, I would spend hours, reading every page, annotating every thought in pencil as I didn't want to deface the book with pen, excited about the things I would bring up during our class discussions. Then during the discussion, I would take notes, which I still have to this day in case I ever get an opportunity to discuss those particular books in my own classroom. Reading is my favourite leisure activity.

My first year of teaching ten years ago I had a 7/8 and we were still doing the whole class novel studies. We read six novels that year for which we read aloud together, discussed, did some sort of written reading response, and a project at the end. Since as a student I had enjoyed conversations about books so much, my Language program was mostly that. The last two novels we did were in Lit Circle format, which was a rather "new" thing back then.

Fast forward to becoming a mother I chose to return from my maternity leave and teach Grade 1. I wanted to learn to teach kids how to read! Our class discussions were now based on picture books, which I read out loud to them every opportunity I had: Religion and Social Studies, to writing mini lessons and of course small group guided reading. How I loved seeing it click! It was magic: first letters and sounds to words and sentences. When my oldest daughter started reading on her own last year, I was so proud it came as easy to her as it did me. We continued to work on reading strategies with the same level of book coming home each week as well as with her library books. Since she was reading at grade level with proper fluency and comprehension, those levelled books did not return to school on a daily or even weekly basis, but that didn't mean we weren't doing lots of other reading at home - just for fun!

Last year I was teaching grade 7 again and I was shocked that in general my class didn't share my love of reading. I laugh when listening to Pernille's ignite. I gave plenty of options for self-selected reading, including reading on their device, eventually some did start to read for information but the unstructured reading time did not go well for quite a while. I wrote a post about how enthusiastic they eventually became. I wonder if it is the list Aviva writes in her post, of things teacher's do, that caused this disdain for books in this group. I also had a "struggling reader" who often would not get reading done for homework, but was the first to find information for any fact checking challenge I would throw at the class.

For the love of reading, like Pernille says, let's become "reading warriors" and not turn reading activities into written follow ups. Let students read what they want if possible, regardless of their "reading level." Make time for them to read and discuss their books with peers. There can be rich assessment from recording "book talks" and not just from written reading responses. Let's not have them make connections or predictions or inferences for every passage in every book. Let them experience the love or reading.

As a rotary team next year, we are hoping to assess reading in subject areas such as Science and Social Studies as that easily covers the first three reading expectations. I also hope Genius Hour will be an integral part of my Language program.

I do worry about them. I'm glad I'm not teaching Grade 8, not sure if I'm preparing them for high school. I'm glad I don't teach Grade 6 or 3, as I'm not sure I'm preparing them for EQAO. However, maybe in high school they will have a teacher who was inspired by this post by @JCasaTodd. If they leave my classroom loving to read again, I feel like I've done my job.

Last year's Christmas gift from a student who  "gets" me
and is herself a voracious reader.


  1. Olivia, This is a wonderful reflection on reading. Like you, I really appreciated Aviva's post and Pernille's video about reading as an opportunity to think about the ways in which we can be "reading warriors" for our students. Funny, as a high school teacher, I was never trained in reading. Mentioning your kids reminded me of my own nights up with my girls trying to figure out how you "teach" reading when I feel like I learned it by osmosis! Your students are lucky that you are passionate about reading. Having a reflective teacher with their best interests at heart, in my opinion is what they really need to be prepared for high school, any standardized test, and more importantly a life-long love of reading! Thank you too for the tag to my post. I look forward to hearing about your genius hour adventures!

    1. Thank you Jennifer! Not sure how we will share yet, hope students are parents are up for blogging our learning and of course twitter.

  2. Like Jennifer, I really enjoyed this post of yours. I wonder why we're sometimes concerned about preparing students for _____ (fill in the blank). Maybe it's not a case of us preparing them, but the next year or next situation having to change because of what students need. It seems like you're addressing student needs in meaningful ways. What's better than that?


    1. Thank you for the comment! I've only recently started to let go of the "preparing students for...", I think inquiry based learning really lends itself to that, but I do know a lot of wonderful teachers who struggle with that, there seems to be a lot of pressure from those who care about "scores."

  3. Great post Olivia! I too struggle with encouraging a love of reading. One book that I have found that matches my thinking and inspires me to keep working on this challenge is 'Book Love' by Penny Kittle. Her ideas are very close to my thinking and I think it might be for you too. Check out the blog post I wrote about it to see if it might work for you:

    1. Thank you James I will check it out!