The Book Matchmaker by Eva Goins
My main goal each year as a teacher is to turn my 8th grade students into readers. I am a matchmaker of twenty-first century minds that are more interested in connecting to a good hotspot over texts that could quite possibly influence their lives.
So how does an educator compete with all of the technological advancements in today’s society? It is not easy. Being in the classroom for over 18 years, the one thing that has not changed is my belief that if I get the proper opportunity, I can connect any reader to a book that they might like. It does not happen overnight, but it will happen.
Here are four ways in how I accomplish this painstakingly difficult task:
Take them to book festivals.
One of the most meaningful activities I have ever done, to turn my students into readers, is to take them to a book festival. With this opportunity, they are able to spend the entire day in an environment that fosters to the love of reading. Students are able to experience first-hand the opportunity to not only see other young people rave about books, but they also get to meet the authors themselves.
So many book festivals also offer opportunities for students to earn or pick up free books of visiting authors. They can even have a book to keep after getting it autographed. This builds an intrinsic motivation for the students to want to read a book from someone they have met.
Taking students to book festivals also lets them see that authors come from various backgrounds, and that authors write about subjects that are important to them. Students are able to identify with texts they might have not known otherwise actually existed.
I have a group of three girls that I started taking to book festivals since they were in the 7th grade. These girls, now seniors, and I went to our last book festival together this year. A tradition worth upholding, one of the girls said that going to the book festival enabled her to pursue a career in writing because she was able to witness that authors can look like her, and love like her, and be different like her.
Book festivals happen everywhere. You just have to put in the research and follow online. Book festivals are usually free and bring some of the most talented authors within talking distance to your students. Authors are approachable and love speaking with young adults about their work.
Bring authors to them.
Sometimes it may be difficult to take all of your students to a book festival for various reasons. Therefore, here is the next best thing: bring an author to them.
The right author visit can spark a love for reading among your students. There is something electric when an author visits a school. It may be their story telling of their life as a writer, or it can be the feeling of having a published author in the halls, but students come alive when an author enters a school building.
I have had the pleasure of bringing some authors to my students, and every experience has been memorable and my students. Even as adults they still remember the author visits. Students love feeling special when an author visits and talks only to their school. It ignites students’ desires to begin reading that author’s books or other author’s books with similar writing style.
First Chapter Fridays
This is the first year I have attempted First Chapter Friday with my classes, and I wish I had done it sooner. Students absolutely love this class routine. Story time allures students’ attentions unlike anything else I have done in class.
But, you can’t just read any ole book. You must read books that are interesting to them – books that matter to them because they can somehow relate to the characters. You need to read books such as Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Girl, Stolen by April Henry, Every day by David Levithan, Dry by Neal Shusterman, Fat Angie by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, or Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Pena.
One of the most encouraging moments with First Chapter Fridays is when a student that does not usually read, begs you to keep going and when you do not because you cannot, comes in when everyone is gone to ask to borrow the book that you read earlier in class. Progress.
If you do not start your class with 10 minutes of sacred Choice Reading, you need to start today. Do not say you do not have time to work it into your lesson plan. The way I see it, you cannot afford not to have this precious amount of time in every class, every day.
Reading The Book Whisper by Donalyn Miller changed my life as a teacher. It will change your life also, so go pick it up if it is not in your professional library.
Build up your classroom library and have a diverse group of books that will cover all genres for all different tastes for your students. The more diverse your classroom library the better reception from your students.
Allow your students to read books of their choice. It is ok if they decide to read poetry, or graphic novels. It does not matter what they read, as long as they are reading. This is also a great opportunity for you to read or to have reading conferences with them.
Making a reader is not an easy task, but is attainable. All you need is the right approach and perseverance. All students have a favorite genre, favorite author, or favorite book; they are just waiting on you to introduce them.
Eva Goins is a Language Arts middle school teacher in North Texas. She is currently in her 19th year in education. She enjoys reading Dystopian novels in her spare time and enjoys traveling any chance she gets. She is also an aspiring author. Her views do not represent that of her employer.