Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"What if I don't have a favorite book?"

One of my end of the year activities this year was to complete a reflection. It asks students about themselves and the class. I was interested to read what advice my students had for my future students and what they took away from my Algebra class, but the reflection I came away with was much different.

Student 1: What if we don't have a favorite book?
Me: Well, you can put two favorites if you can't decide.
Student 1: No, I mean I don't have any favorite books.
Student 2: Me neither. I haven't read a book in years.
Student 3: I haven't read a book since I got a cell phone.
Student 4: I just put 'N/A' - doesn't that mean it doesn't apply to us?

I was so saddened by this realization that my students don't read ... at all. Since I'm their math teacher, I never really thought about it, but this activity brought it right to my radar. I started to walk around and look - about half my students actually had favorite books that are appropriate for their Lexile level and current enough that they have read them recently - and these students (generally speaking) did pretty well in my class this year. And the students who can't remember ever reading a book - or haven't - didn't do as well. Even though I teach math, I see a direct correlation between those who read and those who don't and their success in my class. Not only do the readers perform better in class, they are better spoken, and more persistent when it comes to finishing work. They usually score higher on standardized testing too.

This is not new information that kids don't try to read, but I think we are trying to correct it in the wrong way. We spent exorbitant amounts of money on intensive reading programs - in my 8 years, my school district has tried at least three. How about instead of another program, we put a book in their hand? How can we motivate teenagers to read?  I'm going to do my part to model good reading skills (when reading word problem aloud) and talk to the kids about what they are reading. I've heard the saying a million times -"every teacher is a reading teacher," and I'm going to make sure I'm doing my part to embrace it.

I'm also going to do everything in my power to foster my children's love for reading. My son, almost 4, loves pick out books for us to read and bedtime and will often fall asleep looking at books. My daughter, 1, currently chews on books, but must think they are delicious! I don't know when kids lose that passion (many told me it happens when they get a cell phone), but I am going to do my best to keep that fire ignited in my own kids - I know without a doubt, it is tied to academic success.

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