Monday, March 30, 2015

35 Books Read

This is 30 of 31 posts for the March Slice of Life Story Challenge. Hard to believe the month is coming to a close!  Thank you to the team at Two Writing Teachers for the link ups and encouragement. 
"Mrs. Spillane where are those note cards we used to record titles of books we've read?" she asked.
"They are in the box on my desk. Do you need yours?" I replied.
"Yes, I want to update it with the books I read over spring break," she said. "I've read thirty-five books!"

She is so proud of herself and I am proud of her too. (I wish I'd taken a picture of her Books Read list! Tomorrow, I will do that.)

This morning some students were reading. Some were returning books checked out prior to spring break. Others were perusing the book shelves for their next reads. I started the class period booked talking a few books that I read over spring break. Some were updating the reading and book lists in their journal (Books Read and Books I Want to Read). A few students shared books with table mates. Book talk bubbled up around the room from some. I was making the rounds. I visited readers. I talked with readers. I recommended books to a few students who asked.  I asked students who appeared bookless what book they were reading. It was the start of class on the Monday we returned from spring break.

I believe in reading. I believe that students can and will read more than I could ever "cover" or teach in one school year. I know the research. I've lived it in a high school classroom for twenty years. When Donalyn Miller posted,"I've Got Research Yes I Do, I've Got Research How 'Bout You?" I thought back to a post I wrote last year that included an A to Z list of books, articles and research reports supporting reading workshop. I love Miller's smart writing and how she validates what we know works for readers in our rooms.

 I believe as Penny Kittle does that students deserve choice and support as they develop reading (and writing) skill. I read and write beside my students as she does hers. My students keep reading and writing notebooks, similar to but different from the ones Linda Reif describes and uses in her classroom.

I like the balanced approached Amy Rasmussen takes with book clubs and how she advocates for choice in AP classes (see her argument "Aim Higher: A Case for Choice Reading and a Whole Lot More in AP English" on Three Teachers Talk). I was with her at every turn. I understand the challenge and the joy of differentiating instruction for a roomful of readers. I know book clubs are one way to mediate the whole-class novel and build in choice and common or shared book experiences. I agree that just giving students time to read in class is not the same as teaching from, with, through and beyond the titles students choose for themselves.

We teachers make our way individually along similar paths as we design instruction for the readers and writers in our classrooms.

There is power in readers reading. Award-winning teacher, Nancie Atwell wrote about it from her classroom first with In the Middle and many have followed, adapted, adjusted and worked the model, shaping instruction to fit the needs of our students. We know, the only way to develop reading skill is to read: independently, widely, voraciously, passionately.

Thirty-five books indeed.


  1. What an accomplishment for your student! I'm sure your encouragement and guidance played a big part in her success. Hooray for choice!

  2. It's all in the teacher I think. Teacher's that expect and encourage students to read 35 books, will get students that do exactly that. I work in 5 elementary schools and deal with 10 different 5th grade teachers. Only 2 have students reading 35+ books a year. Those teachers are avid readers and writers too. Your students are lucky to have you. Thanks for sharing.

  3. And I was proud of reading one book over spring break... your student left me in the dust! Baby + Book = Reading the same line 5 times.

  4. Absolutely. Our students at school read voraciously & often, & they have choice which I also think is key. Your post makes me look forward to next Monday when we return & we share what's been going on with the reading!