Sunday, May 11, 2008

Reading for Pleasure

Blame it on the busy life of someone trying to hit the ground running after long service leave AND stay in the holiday mode for a while but I've been remiss in blogging lately. There are many subjects I want to write about, still percolating in my mind and will no doubt find their home here in due course. But on last week I was able to take a photo of my students in the reading area of the library (a designated part of the library with comfy chairs and small round tables) and I hope I was able to show some of the love of reading that this practice our school has adopted has generated. Late last year when the program had been running for a year the library gave me some date to show that the amount of fiction borrowed had increased by a significant amount compared to the last years records. What I wanted to have was a place and a time in the curriculum where our teachers put their money (investment of time) where their mouth is. If we value reading for pleasure and see it as something that will enefit the students in their quest to become conscious life-long learners we have to give a time and place for it in the curriculum. iT's no good saying there is too much material to cover, that we don't have time. So in our school the reading for pleasure is exactly that. It is not associated with any assessment or extra work. There are no restrictions on what they can read - it can be fiction, non-fiction, magazine, newspapers or picture books. They do not have to finish the book or report on it in any way. The only requirements is that they don't chat to each other while reading (and I am even in two minds about that) but I want to generate at atmosphere of calm and peace and pleasure associated with reading. Each English class from Year 7 to Year 11 has a half or one period a cycle devoted to this and it is great if the teacher can model reading for pleasure as well. It is hardly a chore for English teachers. So why was I a bit miffed when I explained to a parent what our system was and he said "wish I got paid for sittng around and reading!" Any way the students love it, the borrowings are going up and when we do have student volunteers talk to the class about books they are reading at the end of each session, I get to hear how much they value our system. I think Stephen Krashen, who inspired me, would be proud, and I thank the librarians at school for organising it all.
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  1. Thanks for blogging this Jo. We ran a similar program at my last school and just like yours it was successful in 'getting kids into books'. Great to see so many of the students in your photo so far into the novels they are reading. I loved it when kids came to me and said things like - That's the first real book I've ever read - or even better - Is there another one like this I can read now?

    It's good to have you back blogging after your holiday. I look forward to reading some of your percolating ideas.


  2. Thanks Jean, yes I missed blogging and am glad to get back into it again, and I especially love getting comments. I will be starting the comment challenge a bit late, but I will be there.

  3. SoulCradler7:43 pm

    Good to see you back blogging, Jo, I was very excited to see you in my reader and on Twitter.

    The reading for pleasure initiative you are working on sounds great! We have SSR for 15 minutes at the start of our lessons, but often the time is disrupted or students have to go to the library to borrow new books. Having a dedicated time and space (which looks very comfy and well-constructed) is definitely a great solution. I'd like to look at this at my own school!

  4. Anonymous10:07 pm

    I would like to start a blog for our students who are reading for pleasure. A blog that they can use to discuss books that they are reading and offer suggestions to each other, Id like the world to be able to see what they are writing and add comment but I am worried about the student's safety. Edublog looked so ordinary in template and hard to set up, compared to Blogger.What is the best way to go? I am a complete novice and am having trouble understanding.

  5. Hi Anonymous, please feel fre to email me at jo_mcleay (AT) hotmail (DOT) com . You could ask me specific questions that way and I would answer them or let you know of other resources.

  6. Jo, you are so right about the reading. I almost feel that enabling a love of reading is the most important thing I can do as an English teacher. My year 8 group has a half hour a week dedicated to SSR. I know that some kids just can't get into it, but others do. And that is very rewarding for them, and me. The other thing that I think can make all the difference is giving the right book to a student. One of my year 10 girls seems to have really developed a love of reading lately. I encouraged her to read Melvin Burgess' "Junk", getting her to check that it was okay with her parents because it is a bit X-rated. Anyway, she loved it and is now on a roll with her reading. Today I gave a boy "Perks of being a wallflower" and he was delighted and I'm sure he'll read it with relish! Of course, you've got to know your kids and know your lit to be able to make the matches. But it's a really good thing to do.

  7. I absolutely agree Jo. It's my favourite lesson with my English classes and whatever the cricism from cynics, sitting with students and demonstrating your passion for reading, by actually doing it with them is valuable. Just because it is enjoyable doesn't mean it's not worth doing!
    Great to read your blog again, after a little break. It inspires me to have another attempt at starting something at school.

  8. Thanks for your topic on "Reading for Pleasure". I think it will add a great value to refine my skills and abilities.

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