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
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.
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!