In the hopes that we can keep reading at the forefront of whatever changes we might have planned for a new year, I’ve been thinking about how I can improve my own reading life as well as those of my high school English students. Here, I offer a few suggestions about ways we might consider jump-starting reading, nurturing younger readers and sustaining a love of literacy.
Commit to read every day: My students start every class reading a text of their choice for 20 minutes. Then, their homework is to read for an additional 20 minutes. Initially, they balk at this assignment, claiming they don’t have time in their day. Eventually, though, they realize that if they carve out a bit of time (and those times have ranged from right after school, to before a sports practice, to a commute), they are able to get their reading completed. Even better, they start to read at the same times daily and, before they know it, they have a reading habit! Look over your schedule: where could you slow down and read for 20 minutes? Block that time out in your calendar. Then, when it’s time to read: stop, drop, and read! Aim for smaller goals to begin, maybe reading for a few days a week, then adding more days. Before you know it, you’ll be reading consistently every day.
Always have a next list: I keep the titles of books I want to read on Post-It notes that I later transfer to the Notes app on my iPhone. My students have a running list of books to read next as well. Whenever I conference with students about their reading, I ask them what’s on their Next List. Regularly thinking about what to read next helps create the expectation that there is always something else to read.
Read to and with the young people in your lives: A Scholastic Reading survey reported: “Nearly one in four parents of children ages 6-17 stopped reading aloud to their children before age 9…yet nearly 40% of those children did not want their parents to stop reading to them.” If you have a child in your life, why not spend some of that daily time reading with them? Reading together is a perfect time to connect with children (plus, reading to them helps them to hear a fluent reader while also practicing their own reading). For more proof and some ideas about how to read with your kiddos, check out this Podcast featuring my reading hero, The Modern Mrs. Darcy, for some tips about how to develop a reading life.
Audio options abound: It’s amazing how time opens up once you decide to exercise your reading muscles. I chatted with a colleague this morning about how he’s listening to classics on his daily commute. He checks them out through his library, downloading them right onto his device. Audible is another option. Some might wonder if listening is the same as reading. I would argue it’s a different type of reading, working different areas of the brain; nonetheless, it’s still reading, and that’s what we’re after. If the idea of carrying around an actual book seems daunting, consider digital options.
Challenge yourself: The hard part about resolutions is losing momentum. Try a reading challenge! My students and I are currently participating in the one from the Modern Mrs. Darcy. Unlike many challenges, this one has enough different options that should keep you interested and reading something engaging every month. One of the options that excites and scares me (which makes me even more pumped up to read that selection) is of a book that intimidates me. My list of books that fit that category is long. I’m going to enjoy thinking of what to read very carefully.
Hopefully these suggestions will help you read widely and delightfully as you start 2016!
Dr. Kimberly N. Parker is a 2014 Mass Literacy Champion and English teacher at the Cambridge, Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge, MA.