Weekly Reflection: Maintaining a classroom reading culture

Book Chaos
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A new year, a new group of kids but still the same goal, getting kids into reading.

Even amongst the Year 8s there were a few kids that needed to get back into the reading.

The kids have started bringing in books to read to themselves and I’ve started reading Whale Rider to the class. Not a typical back to school, however the themes of being true to yourself is something I wanted to instil in my class from the start of the year. In fact when I look at the books I select as class read alouds, The Alchemist, The Wave they are a bit more mature then my students would normally pick. Yet the books are so rich in culture and themes, they are ideas I want the kids to hear.

But what about the kids themselves. One of my students came for a visit last week and I asked her what book she was reading. Without missing a beat she pulled a book out of her bag and told me more about it. This time last year the student was a non-reader. I wish I could say I was the one who gave her the reading bug but it was another of the students who helped turn a non-reader into a reader.

At the start of the year students volunteered to read passages from their favourite books. As it happened one of my Year 7s read a book that peaked the interest of the non-reader and as it turned out the book was part of a series. The older student found her niche and this habit will hopefully stay with her for the rest of her life.

The crazy thing is that I abandoned the read alouds by the kids after the first term because the kids didn’t seem that enthusiastic about either reading to others nor listening to books. The crazy thing was that it wasn’t until the end of the year that I found out what a powerful effect students reading to other students. So this year I am going to persevere. I will provide scaffolds to the students who will need support but the goal is simple, by the end of the term all the students in my class will have read to the class for five minutes.

Reading is often viewed both inside and outside the classroom as an individual activity. A set of strategies to be learned, something you do to pass time on the train. Yet the more I think about it, reading is primarily a social activity. Readers are forever swapping recommendations from others, reading humorous passages out loud.

As I looked out over my class on Thursday afternoon slurping iceblocks and enjoying their books I think we might be well on the way to establishing our class as a community of readers.


4 thoughts on “Weekly Reflection: Maintaining a classroom reading culture

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  1. Step 1 to get kids into reading: never force Whale Rider on them. Seriously, it’s unspeakably awful. The Wave is an inspired choice, though.


  2. What a fantastic idea Steph! I teach Whale Rider as a film to Year 8 and with link it into our speeches topics. Like you, I read ‘more mature’ books to my Yr 8 students… we start the year with a myths and legends unit, so I use it as an opportunity to read ‘The Bone Tiki’ aloud to them… they definitely get hooked on the series as a result, and I love the way it plays on all of our Maori myths and legends.

    🙂 Charlotte


  3. It was nice to discover your blog today.
    I have been excited to see the level of engagement in my boys’ English class increase over the past few weeks. What made the difference? The simple act of asking the boys to suggest to their peers a book they have read and enjoyed. One recommendation was followed by another and the majority of the boys are looking out for specific authors and titles.
    Simple but effective.

    But on the flip side, I have become increasingly aware of the destructive nature of ‘exploring’ a text in class. I know it is important to help kids understand the way novels are written, the author voice, the structure, the purpose… but really, by the time I’ve explored all of this with the kids I reckon I’ve destroyed any chance of them enjoying a book. It’s a fine line between reading for pleasure and explorative pain…




  4. Whale Rider is an awesome book!!! I read it to a Year 4/5 class when the movie first came out and they loved it!!

    I have begun my year with getting my students to read silently for ten minutes each day, and then a five minutes read to a partner and vice versa. Most days they scowl at doing it. But I am determined they will realise the benefits later on.

    I’m thinking of reading my class Under the Mountain as the first chapter book of the year. We’ve read a lot of short ‘chapter’ books and picture books so far. They do seem to enjoy being read to.

    I also do a lot of sneaky reading through our newsbook (current events), poem of the week and some singing. They don’t even know they are reading half the time!!!


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