New Teacher’s Reading Guide: Ten Steps to Turn High School Students Into Readers by Sarah Krajewski

Congratulations, newly minted English teacher!  After ____ months/years of trying, you have finally found a teaching job!  Now comes the task of training the youth of America on how to be successful, remarkable citizens that want to contribute to society.  How does one do that?  Well, it all starts with reading.

Reading is the key to success in school, and in life.  As Dr. Seuss once said in I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  By consistently reading books that challenge them in some way, your students can gain new knowledge about the outside world, become more open-minded, improve their memory, imagination and writing skills, and even find some decent entertainment!

You might wonder, how could I ever get moody teenagers to open up a book when they have social media at their fingertips?  Well, if you follow my ten tips below, you are sure to create some passionate readers in no time!

 

  1. READ!  If you want your students to enjoy books, then you need to enjoy them as well.  Read as much young adult fiction and nonfiction as possible, and share your progress and process with them.  Tell them when you read, how you make time for it, and where you enjoy reading outside of class.  If you show your students that you’re a reader, they will trust you to recommend great books, and, more importantly, they will want to read what you recommend.

 

  1. Give students CHOICE in what they read.  It’s important to allow your students to read about topics they enjoy.  Too many students say that “the classics” aren’t their cup of tea, and why should they all be?  They can’t relate to all of them.  Get them to enjoy reading first, and then they will be more willing to challenge themselves by trying a new genre, or “classic,” later on.

 

  1. Create a classroom library.  If you don’t have books in your classroom, students may not see the importance of reading them.  Get as many books as you can!  Go to garage sales, Scholastic warehouse sales, and check out Barnes and Noble’s educator discount days.  Books are costly, so don’t feel bad about asking for donations.  Ask your family members for any books they don’t want anymore.  Donorschoose.org is also a great way to get people to donate to your cause.

 

  1. It’s all about the attitude!  If you are not excited about books, then your students won’t be either.  Every time you receive new books for your classroom library, put them on display in the front of the classroom. Project your excitement about the books, and reading, onto them.  Attitudes have a way of spreading!

 

  1. Time is essential.  If students are to create a reading habit, then they need the time to do so.  Students will need time every day to read.  Do you have 40-minute class periods?  That’s okay.  They can read during the first ten minutes each day.  Do you have an 80-minute block?  That’s okay too!  Have the students spend the first 15 minutes reading, and then make some time for a book talk or read aloud. Whatever you decide, make sure it becomes a routine.  Naysayers might tell you that those new Common Core Standards require more rigor in the classroom, and thus independent reading should be done outside of class.  Remind them that independent reading adds a lot more rigor than they think. Refer them to the second paragraph of this post, and to millions of articles and books about reading’s positive effects on students.

 

  1. Hold students accountable during reading time.  If you are reading on your own time, students will not need to see you reading to know that you are.  You will have a lot to share no matter what.  Instead, that time they are reading each day can be better spent conferring with your students.  Mark down their book titles, pages, and goals for yourself (see Penny Kittle’s Book Love for a great form to use), and confer with one or two students each day.  Ask them about the premise of the book, what is currently going on, and how much of a challenge it is.  If it appears to be too challenging, ask them to read a portion aloud and explain what they got out of it so you can assess their comprehension.  If you aren’t sure whether or not a certain student is reading, observe him/her during this time.  (Donalyn Miller has a great form to use in her new book, Reading In the Wild.)  Ask the student what they plan to read after the current book.  Avid readers should always have a “next book,” so give them a form to help them keep a running list of those future books.

 

  1. Book talks and read alouds put great books into your students’ hands.  Share excerpts of popular books by doing read alouds, and book talk ones that you have heard about or enjoyed yourself.  The more books the students know about, the more of a selection they will have to choose from.  Ask your librarian to participate too!  If done right, you will need new books for the next class because the previous ones flew off your shelves!

 

  1. Students should be sharing too!  You should not be the only one doing book talks or creating book trailers.  Have the students do it too!  They can analyze their books while creating an opportunity for their classmates to find new reading material.

 

  1. Have students reflect on their reading each marking period or semester.  Students should always have a reading goal in mind.  They need to have goals that they can meet, but also challenge themselves in the process.  Ask your students to write reflections about the books they have read, and assess their reading rates and favorite books.  The more your students think about their reading goals, the more they will aim to meet them.

 

  1. Use social media!  If your students love the various social media outlets so much, let them use one!  Create a Twitter account (for school only), and let your students follow you.  Create a memorable hashtag that they can use to discuss books with one another.  You will end up creating a well-liked reading community using the Internet!  If Twitter is not for you, why not try Edmodo?  It is basically an educational version of Facebook.

 

See, new teacher?  You too can turn your students into passionate readers!  If you follow the steps I mentioned above, you will see that your students are making drastic, positive reading changes right before your eyes!

 

NOTE: This post is dedicated to my students.  We discussed the importance of studying an author’s craft while reading, and we practiced doing so by using Kelly Gallagher’s “Congrats Newly Minted…” assignment in his book, Write Like This.  This post is one of my two models I showed my students.  They approved!

 

Mrs. Krajewski’s EXCITED about reading!

Mrs. Krajewski’s EXCITED about reading!

Sarah Krajewski is a dedicated 9th grade English teacher at a school outside of Buffalo, New York.  She has received the New York State English Council’s Program of Excellence award for a poetry unit using popular music, as well as NCTE’s Leadership Development Award, all before her fifth year of teaching.  Sarah is currently in her twelfth year of teaching, and is always looking for new, creative ways to help her students enjoy learning and reading.  At school, she is known for her dedication to her students and for being a devoted reader who “knows her books.”  At home, she is a proud wife and mother to three avid readers.  You can follow Sarah on Twitter @shkrajewski and her school webpage can be viewed at http://clevehill.wnyric.org/webpages/skrajewski/