The Rule, Not the Exception

My mind is racing today with too many thoughts to narrow down. I’m thinking about presidential debates, the summer essays I need to grade, unit calendars I need to finalize, books I want to read and write about, when I’m going to get our grocery shopping done, etc. Yep, racing.

But for some reason I can’t get my mind off the fact that so many of my students year after year don’t like reading and/or don’t consider themselves “readers.” I can’t get my mind off the fact that my classroom library is an oddity to them. I can’t stop thinking about the fact that many high school English teachers don’t offer regular independent sustained silent reading time (I say independent because I’m referring to student choice in the reading). I keep thinking about high school English classrooms WITHOUT classroom libraries. Schools without teachers willing to develop classroom libraries.

I know books are expensive and that we spend so much out of our pockets already, but isn’t literacy and creating life-long readers worth the money spent on books? If we value education and preach the importance of reading, shouldn’t we be making time in class to read? And if we’re making time for our students to read, shouldn’t we be modeling the behavior we wish to see by reading ourselves? I’ll be honest, one of the reasons I was looking forward to a new school year was because I knew I’d have time to read during the day! I’ve heard stories of administrators not understanding classroom time being used for independent reading. What can be done to help these administrators understand and see the importance of time dedicated to reading? If you’ve ever wondered what students think of classroom libraries, I wrote a post about this back in January.

With literacy advocates like Donalyn Miller, Penny Kittle, Pernille Ripp and so many others, why are we still missing the mark?¬†When I started teaching, I was fortunate to have a stellar college professor who advocated for classroom libraries, read alouds, SSR time, etc. I didn’t know about Donalyn Miller and Penny Kittle, but when I discovered both of them, it reaffirmed what I was already doing as a teacher and what I knew was right. I know that literacy leaders across the country provide professional development throughout the year, but I’m beginning to wonder if those leaders are preaching to the choir and not reaching the teachers who don’t make time for independent reading or creating classroom libraries. If that’s the case, how do we reach teachers who aren’t doing this? How do we invite these teachers into our classrooms and start making positive changes? How do we make this an inviting experience and not one that puts others on the defensive?

I’m in my tenth year of teaching and I’ve long worried about making waves and coming across as “preachy.” I certainly don’t want to offend anyone. But it’s high time we start having some conversations about developing readers and creating reading communities in our middle school and high school classrooms. These conversations need to extend beyond the teachers who are already putting these practices into motion. It would be excellent and empowering if more teachers could learn from each other on a regular basis. If you’ve created a classroom library and advocate for SSR time in your classroom, you should be leading other teachers in your department and in your district. Attending a workshop or conference is a great place to start, but the conversation needs to continue once we’re back in our classrooms. My classroom and classrooms like mine should be the rule, not the exception. Students should walk into English classrooms EXPECTING to see classroom libraries and EXPECTING time to read during class. It shouldn’t be shocking to see classroom walls lined with books.

If you’ve found a way to reach more people about this matter, I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve been wanting to move forward with a classroom library and/or SSR time, I’d love to hear from you as well. Let’s start a conversation and see what positive changes we can make together!

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