The holiday season invites a celebration. Just before holidays, Grade 3 – 7 students at Tecumseh headed to the gym for the 3rd Reading Extravaganza of the year. Kids were excited and clutching books in their hands. Some of the books were from classroom collections. Some were from the library. Some books were from home and being brought to trade for some new books to add to personal libraries at home. The common element was that all of the kids were VERY excited about going to the gym to read for an hour. It begs the question, what are the things that have allowed the act of reading to generate such excitement? There is no real magic in creating readers.
- Create opportunities for positive memories of reading.
- Teach the skills for children to decode and understand text.
- Provide access to engaging fiction and non-fiction text to pique interest.
Students come to school with a variety of experiences with text. Fortunately sharing stories with children has become a regular part of primary classrooms and many intermediate classrooms. It has become a way to get to know students and stimulate curiosity, as well as to teach reading comprehension skills. In many schools such as ours, we have programs such as One To One Readers, which allow children to develop emergent skills and relationships with volunteers who are there because they love books and the kids they are working with. Reading becomes an enjoyable venture where you can learn about things or characters that you care about and share a laugh or two.
Children are also encouraged to read throughout the school for a variety of purposes and in a variety of spaces. The lawn chairs by the Christmas tree were much sought after this season as a place to read. At the Reading Extravaganza, gymnastics and yoga mats were pulled out and all children carefully removed their shoes before getting cozy on the mats. Benches pulled into shapes, lawn chairs and blankets were equally captivating spaces to read.
With 350 students reading in a gym, it may surprise you that students actually engaged in reading. We did have some conversation about what reading behaviours look like. There was some good discussion around the differences of what people want when they read. The desire to share a good part or laugh out loud, means that the environment is not going to be silent. However we also discussed how we could be respectful to those readers not wanting to be interrupted.
The trade a book opportunity happened first with students surrendering the books they wanted to trade for popsicle sticks and then trading in their popsicle books for new books. Some children brought books to give away too. I was also giving away many of the bookmarks and freebies from conferences and much of my classroom collection due to my impending move to another school. Students demonstrating the reading behaviours we discussed were given popsicle sticks by the adults in the room to go pick a book or other reading item. Most of our students have learned to self select books that interest them, but the students shopping for selections helped each other with favorite picks. In some cases, students were choosing books they wanted to give to siblings or cousins or friends for Christmas.
As a reader and an educator, my heart warms to see kids engaged and enjoying reading. Give them books and opportunities to read and they will come and have fun!