From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please help me welcome today’s guest blogger, Shaeley Santiago. Shaeley teaches English Language Learners at the high school level in Iowa. 

Shaeley Santiago under her favorite word!

Even ELLs at the highest English
proficiency level often do not read at grade level. Many of them come from backgrounds where public libraries are not readily available, and reading, especially for pleasure, is not emphasized. In my experience, many ELLs (even from highly educated backgrounds) are not strongly encouraged to read. So when you don’t have lots of experience reading in your native language and you’re multiple grade levels behind your peers, how does your teacher hook you on reading?

That’s the task I’ve taken on with increasing passion over the past few years. As an avid reader myself, I started by showing students my passion for books as a way to create a culture of reading in my own classroom. I’d like to share a few of those ideas with you in the hopes that they might help you in your work with older students who struggle with reading. One of the first ideas I implemented was a reading survey. I wanted to see how much my students were reading and what types of books they enjoyed most. I used a Google form to simplify collection and analysis of the data as all of my students have school-issued Gmail accounts. (See example of survey here.)

The use of technology is another step I took to encourage the reading culture in my class. I had students set up Goodreads accounts and created a Goodreads group for our class where I asked students to share their book recommendations with each other. When they suggested a book, I printed off the book cover and displayed it on the bulletin board in the classroom.
I also shared my own reading goals with students (over 100 books/year) and my progress through another display in the classroom. This year, that’s overflowed into the halls as I 
implemented an idea I learned recently on the monthly Twitter #titletalk chat. I took last year’s book covers from my class display and shaped them into the poster-sized letters 
“R-E-A-D” shown in the picture.

Another huge area is helping students select books that are a good match for them. In addition to the obvious reading level match, I think it
is even more important for ELLs 
that the topic is a good fit for them. This could include but is not limited to multicultural books, bilingual books, and graphic novels that provide age-appropriate visuals and are often at a lower reading level. You may need to convince ELLs that graphic novels count for reading, too, though. I’ve found that starting them off with a graphic novel of a classic book like a Shakespeare play is a good way to show them that graphic novels can still be cognitively challenging and not babyish.

These are just a few ideas that I’ve implemented. I’m always looking for new ways to hook my ELLs on reading.

Thank you, Shaeley, for your wonderful insights into getting ELLs hooked on reading. 

If you would like to learn more about Shaeley’s thoughts on connecting readers and books, follow her on Twitter: @HSeslteacher