From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please join me in welcoming today’s guest blogger, Linda Baie. Linda is a long time teacher of middle school students at a K-8 independent school for the gifted in Denver, Colorado.  She has recently moved from the classroom into the part-time position of literacy coach and works with both students and teachers.  She has a son and son-in-law, a daughter and daughter-in-law, one grandson and two granddaughters.  Passions are reading, writing and being outdoors.  For a long while, Linda rode horses, but has been lately too busy to take care of a horse so had to give it up.  Maybe someday she will return.  She also blogs and, sometimes, tweets.

Linda Baie

          The school where I work is a progressive school where each child chooses an individual topic to study and the work done within that topic is created by both the student and the teacher. Most curriculum areas fall into this, but students also enjoy other areas of study, including separate language arts learning.  Reading expectations vary, but in the Advanced School–grades 6, 7, 8–students are expected to read at least one book each week, about 200 pages, and even that expectation can change depending on differing factors like student ability and the book’s level of complexity.
          This year I began professional book studies with each group of teachers in the school, primary, intermediate and advanced. The Advanced School teachers expressed interest in reaching students at a deeper level in their reading and I suggested that we read and discuss Penny Kittle’s Book Love-Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers. We have read one chapter each month, discussing the ideas presented and how to integrate them into unique schedules. Their classes do not fit a departmentalized schedule, but have long work times for students where students choose what assignments to work on. For example, there may be small group meetings about writing while others are researching, and still others are creating art, doing math, etc. These teachers shared some questions to address about reading:
             How can we increase the enthusiasm for reading?
             How can we insure each student has a wealth of ideas for books to love and books that will challenge?
             What can we do in our already busy schedules that doesn’t take too much time, yet still show students that reading, and reading a lot is important learning?

        Penny Kittle, on page 33 of Book Love, writes “two things that really matter if we want to move kids from where they are to where we want them to be: the to-read-next list, so each reader has a plan; and reading conferences that put the teacher one-on-one with a student, asking where she is in her independent reading and what she plans to read next.” From the beginning of this school year, each teacher has put different practices in place that differ from last year. One teacher started a blog, and has all students blogging too. First, they blogged only to post book reviews. They also posted a TBR (to be read) list. The teacher also began doing book talks each Friday, and soon began asking students to participate. I’ve given a few book talks with the classes, and they’ve had guests visit to talk about favorite books. Time talking about books both in class and online has meant much to the improvement in reading and enthusiasm about reading.  We believe the student choices are more considered, less random.

Lost in a good book

            Another teacher wanted to be sure the students weren’t leaving reading their books until late at night or doing ‘binge’ reading on the weekend in order to finish. She also does book talks, but has added a time for silent reading. Every day, after lunch, student come in, grab their books and read for fifteen minutes. After a week or so of grumbling and pushing the students to be quicker to start, she says it’s become a habit. It helps students really get “into” the books chosen, helps them to calm down after lunch and recess (yes, even our oldest kids go outside after lunch), and helps the transition to the later work time. They can choose to continue reading or stop to work on another project. This also gives the teacher time to confer with individuals.

Just another page. . .please!

         The third teacher has begun genre studies so that he can share and discuss the distinct characteristics of genres. Students are free to choose within the genre studied, so a wealth of book titles is added to their knowledge along with the close examination of a genre, and then some figuring out that there are still differences. One book labeled science fiction may not fit all the characteristics that the class has learned, but the student reading it is able to add to the discussion because he or she sees other attributes in a particular book.
         These are the highlights of the deliberate changes made.  Some positive results are shared above, and the overall result is that students are more enthusiastic, more likely to talk about choices and realize that choosing well means a very good read.  All of us believe that deliberate actions by the teachers that center on independent reading have improved all students’ enthusiasm and book knowledge. Increased conversations about books and reading help students become more thoughtful when they read and when they reflect upon their reading.  
         Thanks to Kirby for inviting me to visit. I love sharing a part of what’s going on in reading at my school.

Thank you Linda for sharing your insight and experiences with us all. The energy for reading at your school glows from your words!

No Responses to “From the Office of the Future of Reading”

  1. Terje

    All change can start from small actions. I will share this post with our MS English teacher. This year she has taken a new fresh approach to reading instruction and I have tried to support her as I can. The blog posts, recommended readings, and examples from different schools have helped. Thank you, Kirby and Linda.

  2. iza

    It sounds like an amazing school, Linda, and I love the work you are doing! What lucky students! And I am sure it is rewarding for the teachers as well.

    • LInda Baie

      Thanks Iza-the wonderful world of books makes the job easier I think. We just need to make sure the students know about them too!

    • LInda Baie

      Thanks Iza. It is a wonderful place to work, and the teaching is better because of the great books we have to offer students too!

  3. Tara Smith

    Such ricjh and valuable work going on in your school, Linda. We are just getting underway with our histoical fiction gentre studies – and one of of selections is none other than Hattie Big Sky!

  4. Tara

    Such ricjh and valuable work going on in your school, Linda. We are just getting underway with our histoical fiction gentre studies – and one of of selections is none other than Hattie Big Sky!

    • LInda Baie

      Well, it’s a great choice of a book, and I’ll look forward to hearing what your students think about it, Tara! Kirby, perhaps they can connect with you after reading?

  5. Ramona

    Linda, so fun to read what you’re doing at your school to increase the book love. I read Book Love last summer. Now I need to revisit it. I want my students to have more book conversations. I’m always trying to figure out ways to share books with other classrooms. Thanks for sharing what’s going on at your school.

    • LInda Baie

      Thanks Ramona! We found Book Love to be so helpful, & now several of us are reading Donalyn Miller’s latest book, Reading In The Wild. You might like it too!

  6. Leigh Anne Eck

    Reading about your school is like a breath of fresh air. Breaths of choice, freedom, and less restriction that many of us face. Thanks for giving us a glimpse.