In a distance learning workshop that I attended before the pandemic, Douglas Fisher, an educational leadership professor, stated that in a traditional school setting, students read for 90 minutes a day, which includes reading at school and at home. But during the spring of 2020, students only read for an average of 30 minutes a day. Of course, many factors went into this decline; however, what we know from this data is that we need to support students in reading closer to the 90-minute mark if we do not want learning gaps to grow.
Students who develop good reading habits are more likely to succeed academically, which translates to increased college and career readiness. You might agree that we need to add to the minutes that our students read, but the challenge we face as educators is a lack of control over how they spend their time each day. Many classrooms in America are being taught in a distance learning or a hybrid model. We now must trust students and families to see that reading gets done each day. How do we do this from a distance?
Build a love of reading through listening to reading. There are many ways we can support our students and their families in developing a love of reading from home. Families and teachers who are looking to support reading remotely will find The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease a great place to start.
In his book, Trelease examines the power of spending time together reading aloud. Grown-ups in the family can model what a fluent reader looks like and good reading strategies. Reading at the appropriate pace (not too fast, not too slow) and using voice inflections to reflect punctuation like exclamation points and question marks are both great ways to model fluent reading. Providing different voices for each character as you read is another way to keep kids engaged.
As educators, we know the importance of reading. Share this handout with families to encourage them to embrace reading time at home, too. Share book recommendations if they need a place to get started!
You can also record yourself reading books. Most publishers are allowing educators to record themselves reading and sharing out with their students and families. You can find the list of publishers and their guidelines from School Library Journal.
Build a love of reading by providing choice and building stamina. The books students are exposed to are often those that are part of the curriculum or assigned by the teacher. Whether it’s for a novel study, guided reading or part of a text set, the majority of the books students read are those selected by an educator. But we need to allow for students to develop and keep their love of reading by empowering them to pick up a book that is of interest to them to read for enjoyment.
Choice boards are a great option for promoting student choice – they allow students to pick a reading activity that is interesting to them while still practicing concepts from class. You can create your own or search for ideas on the internet. Download this tic-tac-toe choice board for free today.
The 20 Book Challenge is another way to build reading stamina and provide students choice in selecting books. You can read about how this challenge transformed a school in Florida, watch a free webinar, and download program templates. Check it out.
It is important that students learn how to read independently and build stamina doing it. You can work with families and students to do these ideas during an asynchronous portion of the day.
Build a love of reading by reading with a buddy. In the classroom I encourage students to read with a friend; however, that’s not an option right now. We need to be creative. Pair students up in breakout rooms to read to each other, or connect with another classroom to do buddy readings. Students can even read to a pet, stuffed animal or action figure. Use Flipgrid to have students share what they are reading.
Build a love of reading through writing. Writing instruction supports reading skills. Let your students journal or respond to a book that they have read to practice expressing their thoughts in an organized way. We also need to make sure that students have an opportunity to share what they write to make the task meaningful. Provide a time during the week in a synchronous or asynchronous way for students to share what they’ve written.
You can find ideas to connect writing and books at allbooksforallkids.com. It’s Follett’s mission to get students reading by providing educator-created ideas that offer up ways for students to share what they read.
While this post focuses on ways to keep reading and writing through distanced learning, these ideas can be used any time! Encouraging a love of reading is always in season!
Nicole Stroup Regional Office of Education, Lake County, IL
With over 10 years of experience in education, Nicole Stroup has been instrumental in supporting staff development, leading teachers, and developing curriculum for districts throughout Lake County. She has rich experience as both an instructional coach and ELA Content Facilitator. She has enhanced the professional learning experience of teachers throughout the Lake County area and brings both enthusiasm and a passion for instructional coaching and literacy to her role. With a master’s degree in both Reading Instruction and Educational Leadership, she is committed to serving Lake County schools and districts as a support for English Language Arts curriculum, school improvement, and professional development. Nicole’s broad experience includes teaching at the elementary level as well as supporting school library media staff on library improvements. She emphasizes flexible learning environments, passion for content, and a desire to support the professional learning needs of Lake County educators. Nicole resides in Volo, Illinois with her husband and young daughter. In her leisure, Nicole enjoys golfing and supports her local girls' gymnastics team as a coach.
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