I teach disenchanted readers. My students have struggled their entire academic careers (as short as that has been at nine years old). I can only imagine what that feels like. So a big part of what I do as their reading teacher, in addition to tackling the difficult job of teaching them HOW to read, is to inspire them to WANT to read. I read great books to them, both picture and chapter books, throughout the school year. I even resort to persuading (read: bribing) them through the use of my 100-Book Challenge party (more about that in another post) and offering raffle tickets for each genre they’ve read to redeem for prizes. My students have met that challenge, and many of them have read more books this year than they have in the previous three years of school. It’s a start, but ultimately, their motivation to pick up a book once they leave my classroom must come from within.
When my daughter was in second grade, she still loved to have me read to her. By then, she enjoyed listening to chapter books. I can tell you, as a parent I loved reading to her, since I knew those intimate cuddle moments wouldn’t last forever. But I also knew that she needed to read on her own, as well. She liked many of the typical “girlie” books, so I had a ton of books to choose from. But getting her to pick one up on her own was more difficult. And then I discovered the “My America” book series, a spin-off of Scholastic’s “Dear America” series, a series of fictional diaries of young children during American history. I can pinpoint the moment she became a lifelong lover of reading in the moment she began reading her first “My America” book. In the eleven years since then, my daughter has read hundreds of books, and we now share a Barnes and Noble nook account on each of our nooks so that we can share our up-to-the-moment favorites.
Recently I was thinking about that moment for her, and when that moment occurred for me as a child. Although my own mom was an avid reader, I never really thought of myself as a reader. In retrospect, I never found that one book that sparked that love for me. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I began reading books for pleasure. But I did read. A lot. On a daily basis, and especially every Sunday, in fact. Yep, I read the Sunday comics. I grew up with the kids in For Better or For Worse. I enjoyed Blondie, Archie, Garfield, Sally Forth, and my ultimate favorite, Calvin and Hobbes. I didn’t always understand everything I read (Doonesbury, anyone?), but I persisted, and eventually it started to make sense.
I did have a couple of “books,” compilations of the Peanuts cartoons. Those were truly the first books I’d really read as a kid. After thinking about this for a bit, it hit me. So what did I do? Yes, I ran out to Barnes and Noble and bought two Snoopy books for my classroom. I can’t wait to share them with two of my students in particular. You never know the spark that one book can create, do you?
Of course, I laughed to myself when I looked at the small slip of paper that was tucked in between the books along with my receipt: “You may also like…” Calvin and Hobbes. Do those folks at B&N know me, or what?
What are some ideas you have used in your classroom or with your own children to encourage a life-long love of reading? I’d love to hear them!