My students used to love reading. Like, really, really love reading. And then X changed all of that. (Insert the variable of your choice: school, extracurriculars, dating, gaming, etc.) In an effort to change that (and after reading the four most powerful books on the market–Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide, Penny Kittle’s Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers, and Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild), Chris and I set out to reintroduce our students to a love of reading: “Students, books. Books, students.” It has been a year of growth, learning, exhaustion, and, at times, pure euphoria.
Like this morning. (More on that in a minute.)
It’s college recommendation time, which my students affectionately call “Ms. Hughes’ Hunger Games.” Because I have trouble saying “no” to doe-eyed students, a few years ago I agreed to write 58 recommendations. At two to three hours a piece, it was a horrible recommendation-writing season. (I’m convinced there’s a book out there, pointing recommendation-seekers toward their English teachers. But that’s another post.) Because of that awful summer (the effects of which will resurface in my children’s future therapy sessions), I now reserve fifteen spots and require applicants to reflect on a series of prompts. Beyond that, “may the odds be ever in [their] favor.”
So, this morning, before tackling yet another set of essays, I quickly glanced at a student’s reflection:
Ms.Hughes has seen my work ethic improve over the past year and knows how important it is to me. She is always helping me with my projects and papers or anything I need help with which makes me feel like I have someone I can actually rely on. Ms.Hughes is always helping me to improve my work. Recently she gave me a book recommendation for the mystery/thriller choice book project and I really enjoyed the book a lot. She helped me find my love for reading all over again which I have absolutely missed since I was a kid. I used to always love reading then was never a big fan of it and this year she has opened me up to so many book options that I began to love reading. I have noticed my work has improved greatly over the past year due to the help of reading more and this will especially help me in my future. Overall, Ms.Hughes has spread her love of reading on to me which has made me fall in love all over again with reading.
While the work Chris and I are doing is by no means finished–and while this is only one student, this was the perfect energy drink I needed to sustain me for the month-long marathon that is June.
Happy reading, and “may the odds be ever in your favor”!
3 thoughts on ““May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor””
I can totally relate to this post. After reading the books you mentioned, I focused on fostering a love for reading in my students. Students who walked in not having a read a book beyond those required in class, will walk out having read over 10 books in 10 months, and have enjoyed it! They share recommendations with their classmates, have lists of what they want to read next, and have improved their reading fluency and comprehension (nice! ). My fear is what the summer will bring for these readers that have blossomed throughout the year…
I appreciate that my ideas on reading, that kids should actually like doing it, for one, were confirmed by these authors. And more importantly that they gave me strategies to actually help students with this.
Enjoy the progress you have made and the end of yet another school year!
Thank you for your comment, Tessa! I realized that what I had been doing all along (which, in my mind, was all sorts of fabulous) was really contributing to the Readicide that Kelly Gallagher discusses. Refreshingly, our curriculum has changed quite a bit, enabling plenty of room for choice books, which is a huge part of the issue. With standards-based teaching, the text really isn’t as important anymore. Next week, for example, my high school students have a project due on a mystery/thriller book of their choosing (which both home and teacher had to approve, since I haven’t read many of the titles). The students have to demonstrate that they’ve met CCSS RL Standards 3 & 5 (authorial craft) and SL Standard 5 (multimedia). In our building, we are still holding on to a few grade-level, common-experience texts, which I think is important. However, I have to allow as much choice as possible during the rest of the year if I want my students to rekindle their romance with reading. Our final read (the genre of which my students selected) is Authors of the World (which, we agreed, can include US authors that write about the world). I want my students to be exposed to the world that is waiting for them outside of our town’s borders.
As for the summer slump? I, too, am worried. I am also worried about what happens after they leave our classrooms. Donalyn Miller’s “In the Wild” helps address what we can do to help keep their love of reading alive after they leave our rooms/buildings.
Thank you again for your post, and good luck with your end-of-the-year crunch!
Beth, about the summer slump… there has to be a way for us to engage these kids over the summer… maybe a section of this blog that we open up to our students who want to share what they are reading and why they like it?
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