One of the goals of our 9th grade team this year is to create more of a reading culture in our school. Our students are definitely not readers, and they've become less and less readers in my time teaching. I'm not sure if this is nationwide or not, but it definitely seems that attention spans are shrinking and being able to commit to long and sustained study is just more and more of a challenge to students.
Our response this year is to incorporate Sustained Silent Reading into class every Monday. I've been pretty consistent with it, and I regret whenever I have vacillated or not given them much. I have created a classroom library with weekly trips to The Book Thing of Baltimore and students can find something to read, or they can bring something they want to read from home.
I can't say they are looking forward to Mondays yet, but they like picking out books and there are definitely kids who get lost in their reading. That's their assignment every Monday, and they're graded by it -- are they "lost" in their book, whatever it is they choose? I figure that reading is thinking and that even if the kid is reading R.L. Stine, they are still reading and thinking (actually, those books have a vocabulary that is just above most of my students' level, so it's a fine read for them) and developing both the stamina and thought processes associated with the rigor we expect from our students.
As I was through The Book Thing, I find myself pulling any book that I think any of my students might be interested in. When I was a 9th grader, I devoured John Grisham novels, and am hoping a kid who might want to be a lawyer (re: half of my kids) pick one of his up. I get sports books, young adult books, biographies, and whatever else I think they might want to pick up.
Today's impressive take of free books included the following:
Three Julia Alvarez novels
The Island of the Blue Dolphins (James O'Dell)
Two copies of The Kite Runner
Several John Grisham novels
The World According to Garp
Two Wally Lamb book
several classroom dictionaries
A YA book about Hitler's rise and fall
A courtside look at March Madness from a reporter with a lot of close access
Cold Sassy Tree
I got four boxes full, so that is only what I remember. This is my new Saturday or Sunday ritual, and my classroom shelves (from shelves lifted from random closets in my school) are getting full. Now I have to set up a system of checking them out or giving them away.
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