Cultivating Wild Readers

Joanina Biblioteca

Joanina Biblioteca in Portugal, the inspiration behind the library in the Live Movie, Beauty and The Beast

When you hear the term wild reader, what do you imagine? I am immediately transported to the majestic and expansive library in the Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. With a grand spiral staircase, ornate chairs and décor, a magnificent fireplace, and stories high shelves packed with volumes of books, it is a wild reader’s dream. Beast gifts the library to Belle, an ardent book lover, and she is delighted by the Beast’s generous gesture. That is because Belle is a wild reader.

How do we cultivate a community of wild readers?

Ensure Students Have Easy Access to Books

If we want our kids to be wild about reading, the first step is to make sure they can quickly locate a variety of books. Our school has a small, yet voluminous school library and a librarian who believes there is a perfect book for everyone. In addition to our school library, I take the students on a field trip to our city’s new, beautiful, state-of-the-art library. It is within walking distance of our school, so it is a free excursion. Finally, I stack my classroom with books from my personal library, donations from friends and parents, and books I have picked up at garage sales or thrift stores. Firstbook.org is also a fantastic resource to secure low-cost books, including young adult fiction.

Set Aside Reading Time in the Classroom

A Convert to Reading
Student Enjoying SSR

Let’s face it, in middle school and high school, reading for pleasure can take a backseat to the competing responsibilities of homework, family, and extracurricular activities. Creating reading routines in the classroom allows students time to connect with their book of choice. Initially, I set aside the first ten minutes of class on Mondays and Wednesdays for students to read a book of their choice. They enjoyed it so much, we extended Sustained Silent Reading  (SSR) to the rest of the week and have 20 minutes of SSR on Fridays.

Model Reading

It might be tempting to use SSR time to grade papers, respond to e-mails, or catch up on the copious amounts of administrative work we teachers need to complete. However, it is essential to lead by example, so I make sure that I am reading during SSR time too. I share my student’s disappointment when time is up – I always get a chorus of requests to give “Just five more minutes, please, Ms. Bell!”

 Create Follow-Up Activities

Accountability for reading is essential. However, the goal is to inspire a love of reading – not turn reading into a chore. I create choice boards for students so that they can demonstrate their understanding of the book’s characters, plot, conflict, theme, and symbolism. The choice boards vary but might include creating a comic strip, drawing a movie poster, or reenacting a scene from their book. The possibilities are endless, but the primary purpose is to find ways for students to stay engaged.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg. I would love to hear your thoughts on how you engage wild readers!

How to Create a Wild Reader

When you think of reading for yourself, where are you sitting? What is the background noise like? Who is around?

We must ask ourselves these questions when it comes to our young Wild Readers in the making. How will you make your classroom a place for a Wild Reader? In this blog post, I will be discussing ways you can ensure that your classroom is the perfect setting for each child to delve into a book and never look back.

Let us start with the basics, the seating. As a Wild Reader myself, I must feel comfort both physically and emotionally before diving into a book. Fluffy pillows, bean bag chairs, a large couch, etc. This is just the beginning for the perfect comfort seating in order for your children to feel maximum comfort physically while reading.

Lighting, this may be the most important of them all. The right lighting is crucial, for the safety of your scholar’s eyes and for the optimal reading light. Having a lamp in the reading corner next to every bean bag chair, or individual reading lights on the wall above the couch can provide each student with the necessary lighting to get the most out of their book.

Next, we must discuss the distractions of noise. Having pre-loaded iPods or CD players with songs could make our break your Wild Readers. You could easily, as a teacher, ask all parents to provide their students with headphones that they could plug into these pre-loaded devices.

We must not forget the BIGGEST part of all of this, they must have a selection of books that they actually WANT to read. May that be books with pictures, animation, etc. If they are not interested in the book, chances are it will not captivate their attention long enough for them to finish this said book. Have a large selection, if your budget allows. Provide a fun, creative, engaging description of the books for our scholars.

Next, an activity for the students to engage them in their reading. How is that possible, you may ask. BOOKMARKS. Not just any bookmark, a bookmark they love and cant wait to place in their book in the middle of their reading. Provide different papers, with various themes. Have them cut out their bookmark and you will laminate that for them. Have different strings, beads, and small characters for them to attach to the bookmark after lamination. Not only does this allow them creativity, but it allows them to feel that they did this and they cannot wait to open that book and read so that they can save their next spot with their custom bookmark!

Thank you for reading my blog, I sincerely hope that one day the whole entire world will be a Wild Reader. This truly can make this world a better, brighter place. So, please, encourage and provide what your students need to be so involved in a book that they can hardly set it down. Now that would be the greatest gift of all.

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