Readers without power to make their own choice are unmotivated. -Donalyn Miller-The Book Whisperer
I’ve stated before that I’m a voracious reader. I have always loved books and the ability to be transformed by a story. I particularly love Southern writers. I’ve never quite understood how others aren’t “readers”. They read only when required and almost never for pleasure. In order to create readers, we have to identify ourselves as a reader first. We must “brand” ourselves as readers. When I read to my class, I share what I like about that particular author. I tell about other books like that book. I make connections with myself to the text, to others, and to the world. My students know how much I love to read.
But what about those who struggle? Or those who don’t like it? Getting to the root helps determine which way to help the child grow. What don’t they like? Are there books available that interest them? How many informational texts are available on their reading level? I can tell you that as much as I love reading, I would not be as enthusiastic if I were forced to sit and read instructional manuals all day, or books on mechanical things. Those are not my interest. Taking an interest inventory helps know how to fill your book center or your iBooks shelf on your iPad. Building an early foundation of excitement about books, whether paperback, hardback, or electronic, helps build an appreciation and love for books.
My students have a variety of genres available throughout the day. We work to build enthusiasm for our classroom library and for our eBooks on our iPads. By demonstrating authentic reading behaviors, doing away with worksheets, engaging kids in building stamina when they read, and giving kids choices about what they read, we can develop life-long readers.
Reading is so much more than phonics, sight words, and mechanics. It is about building discovery, wonder, and awe around the written word. It is power. It is peace.
So what should students learn from us about reading? That drill and practice worksheets aren’t making them better readers. Reading makes them better readers. iPads give me the opportunity to practice the mechanics of reading with individual students on their own level, but they also give them a choice of what they are reading. There are leveled books in their iBooks libraries. There are high interest books as part of their apps, plus all of the traditional books in our classroom. The best part of all is that the choice is theirs!
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