Saturday, February 1, 2014

Growing Readers

This year has been a struggle for me. Not in the actual teaching aspect, but the inner struggle to do what I know in my heart my kids need and do what I am told to do. Last year, I read The Book Whisperer. And I was blown away. And I knew that this year I wanted to include time in our day for my students to read. JUST read. Read for the purpose of reading. To learn to love reading. After all, I am a reader. I would read all day if someone would pay me to do it. But alas, I must work for a living. I digress..

I mentioned in a meeting one day that I was incorporating a daily time for my students to read. And I was questioned. And told that there just isn't enough time for "just reading". I brought up the research. I brought up the book. I did all I could. But in the end, I had to let it go.

I knew it wasn't right. And I knew my kids would love to read if they were just allowed. But I let it go for a while. Until just recently.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to bust out the Read to Self time. I taught my students what it meant to build up stamina. We talked about the people that go to the gym and how they have to work up to lifting 300lbs. And then we had our first go at it. Everyone got their books, found a spot, and started reading.

And after 35 seconds, we were done. 35 SECONDS. Folks I was defeated. I thought this was going to be awful. I told them we had to stop and I actually heard groans. Ok... maybe, just maybe, they will get it together. The next day they did pretty good and made it to 9 minutes even with interruptions and people knocking on the door. The third day, I hung this sign on the door.
This was not a cutesy sign, it was handmade really quickly. But I wanted everyone to know we really needed to be left to read.

Within 4 days we were surpassing 20 minutes! And when time has to stop, they groan! In fact, when the announcement was made that it was our turn to go to the sockhop, they actually were upset that their reading time had to end!

And I can assure you these kids are reading. How do I know? They are laughing as they read their books! They are so focused they don't even realize someone is at the door, or that I dropped a million things on the floor, or that someone sneezed. All things that usually take their attention away from the task at hand. But not when they are reading. I have been amazed. It might help that we just got this amazing library from Donor's Choose!
(I had a bunch of books before but there was just no rhyme or reason to how I had it set up. Now everyone knows what buckets they can get books from to be successful. It is a beautiful thing!)

And then... the ultimate proof. I sent home Scholastic book orders last week. I send these home every single month. And most times I either get no kids buying books or I get one or two and we are struggling to have $20 so we get free shipping (which usually results in me adding to the order). This month...

my order was over $120! That, my friends, is a lot of money in books. And the kids are asking me every single day "When are the books coming in??" "When will the books be here?" "You said by next Friday right?" Never have my children been THIS excited about books. (A few of them snagged Charlotte's Web for a dollar this month too after I told them what a steal this was!)

Every single day they ask, "are we going to get time to read today?"... and THAT alone tells me that what I thought all along and felt in my heart... it was right. And maybe, hopefully, it will help them improve their reading scores. But in the end, what really matters to me is that I am developing these children into readers. And I couldn't be happier!


  1. Congrats on instilling a love of reading in your students! It clearly shows from your book order. :)

  2. I'm amazed and saddened that admin would question whether sustained silent reading is worthwhile. I know what you mean though, but sometimes you just gotta close your door and do what's right for your kids, right?

    We have 30 minutes of Read to Self every day. Admittedly, I am conferring with some kids during this time, so it isn't "just" reading time...but still.

    We started the year at 4 minutes of stamina and quickly built to 20. We just switched to trying for a full 30 last month!

    Sweet Rhyme – Pure Reason
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  3. Gina,
    I am writing a dissertation on just what you are talking about in this post...teachers who know in their hearts what is good for students, but are mandated to do otherwise. I would love to talk with you briefly by phone or e-mail about the if you are willing. My e-mail is

  4. You go girl! You know what is great for those kids and what will help them grow as learners and if you feel it in your heart, it's right! :)

  5. AMAZING!!! I got chills when I read your post!! How exciting for you and your kids. I can't believe that you were questioned about reading time. Good for you for doing what you needed to do for your kids! It clearly shows that we know them best! I am so impressed with that book order as well. I never get anyone to buy so I don't send them home anymore. I just buy for the classroom. Every now and then I will pull out a book and read while they read so they can see me doing what they're doing. It doesn't happen all of the time because I like to go around and read with students who I know just need that little bit of one-on-one time, but ti's pretty amazing to see them watching me to see what I'm doing when I'm reading. Trying to teach by example... Congrats again!

    Mrs. Bentin's Blackboard

  6. Fortunately, I am in a school where my principal wants us to do Daily 5 in Grades K-2. I had already started it the year before and she came in to see what this Daily 5 was all about. As she walked around, the kids were telling her they were reading to improve their fluency. One student who she knew all too well looked up and said and if our fluency improves then our comprehension does too. I was thrilled to have my kids say that. When she asked one of the kids how long they read, the boy responded with 30 minutes but we really had to work on that by building our stamina. I wish you the best of luck. I know in my heart the reading to self is helping sooooo much!! They don't have/make time to read at home.


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