Tuesday, April 21, 2015

What Gets in the Way of Pleasure Reading?

We know that two keys to lifelong reading are planning and goal setting. Reading plans may take the form of a bedside book stack, a shelfie, a wishlist, or a virtual to be read list, or a collection of holds in the Overdrive app used by the public library. Anasia has maybe seven books on hold. She is number twelve in line for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Michelle Hodkin's Mara Dyer series is getting a lot of action in my class this semester!).

Reading plans and reading goals walk hand in hand. If you have a stack of books or a list of titles you want to read next, you have goals.

We are early in our fourth quarter and we are reflecting on where we have been as readers and looking to where we want to go next.

Clara's  reflection.
Today, I am most interested in what is getting in the way of students reading. A handful of students are still not carry a book with them. Instead, they sample books during each reading workshop session. They stand in front of the classroom bookshelves and stare at book spines, browsing for something to read during reading workshop. It reminds me of the after-school refrigerator stare; bored, you open the fridge, feel the cool air and stare at the shelves hoping for a treat. Less than ten percent of my current students are still staring into the book fridge--they are picky consumers, but I haven't given up on them yet.

The remaining students, the majority, are off and reading and have been since Dec/Jan. I can barely keep them feed. Their reading appetites are well developed and they are hungry for books. Even though, students self-report reading anywhere from eight to eighty titles this year, some weeks they seem to read less than others. So I asked them what gets in the way of reading?

Students know. They talked about it at their tables and wrote about it on a quick sheet I gave them. The sheet is half-sized so that students can glue it into their reading journals. I asked students to:  set reading goals, assess themselves as readers using our independent reading learning progression (formerly known as a learning scale) and to discuss what gets in the way of pleasure reading.

Independent reading learning progression; entry level begins at the bottom of the page.
Marks show my use of the progression for whole-class reflection and to share my big picture assessment of  the group . 
 They've read an incredible amount this year.

By the Numbers: Books Read by Table and Class Period. Two to four students sit at each table. 

We talk about many of the books they read but not all of them and likely not more than once per book. My goal is to speak with each reader at least once a week. Students can confer more if they need to, but it is impractical and unrealistic of me to think I can see every student multiple times as they read a single book. My readers read too fast for that. Do yours? 

My own thinking is often confirmed by what students say and write. One said it was more an issue of priorities and time management. Another student said, "it's not what gets in the way--it's more like what takes the place of reading." Ah, "takes the place of" that's what's happening as students mature. I have been watching that happen at home in my son's reading life, so I am not surprised that students experience a shift in their own reading habits too. There are only so many hours in a day, so many minutes in class.

For that student and many others in my tenth grade Pre-International Baccalaureate classes, homework, tests and the sheer volume of content knowledge that must be learned, keeps students from reading for pleasure. These students take chemistry, pre-calculus, German or Spanish, Advanced Placement psychology, Advanced Placement World History as well as debate, computer networking, information technology or a host of other electives.

I get it.


I remember my own pleasure reading taking a back seat to course requirements, but I am reader. I always found a way to read.  I know my readers do too.

The Slice of Life Story Challenge is hosted by the talented team at Two Writing Teachers.
Link up your slice on Tuesdays all year. Thanks, Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Anna and Beth.


  1. Even with your fridge starers and busy students, that is an impressive amount of reading! I wonder if reading is making a comeback among younger people, after the predictions that no one was reading anymore. I think once you fall in love with reading, however long that takes, you are in it for life.

  2. "it's not what gets in the way--it's more like what takes the place of reading."
    Sigh, so true. I know that my students have so much that takes the place of reading - so many extra curriculars and enrichment activities...when what they would really benefit from is simply more time to read.

  3. I've been doing a lot of thinking about my reading life during the school year, especially when I'm teaching my dual enrollment class. I've been "stuck" for quite some time. I have started many books and even read much of them only to have something interrupt or distract me. I had an epiphany recently, but I'm reluctant to share it.

    On another note, when we talk about independent reading, I wander if we have too many limiters. For example, students in debate read many government documents and other informational texts. They must do this to be successful, yet they also do it because they enjoy it. Does this not qualify as independent reading, too? Maybe it should.

  4. I do have reading time, which helps get the students started. Lee Ann I'm so impressed that you keep track of so many students-wow! I mostly have avid readers, but because they read beyond their years, the challenge often is finding appropriate books. In my mind some of the younger ones read far too many YA books (6th graders in to the edgy high school set). I don't atopy them, but finding a great middle grade themed book that's denser doesn't work. I do find that non-fiction is a good alternative, & then most anything of interest works.

  5. I'm curious about how you make enough time to conference with student once per week. I see my students 4 days out of a 6-day cycle, so I see them 3-4 times per week. I am only allowed to devote 10 minutes per class to IR (not counting book talks or read alouds), so after check book titles and pages, I have about 5 minutes for a conference with one student. That's if another student doesn't need help finding a book. I have an average of 22 students per class. How do you find the time? I know the huge benefit of conferences, for I see the positive growth in my students. How do I find more time for them?

    Sarah K.

    1. Sarah, my goal is every reader every week but I'm not perfect when it comes to getting there. I have brief chats with every student on Tuesdays when we look at what they've written about their reading journals and then I just work the room each day during reading and other work times. One thing that helped me see the timing differently was to "schedule" five students a day -- typically all five do not need nor want five minutes of my full attention, so it works out. I also found time in between classes. I always have a handful of kids that arrive right after the bell. We have 8 minutes between classes because our campus is under construction. I stand on the steps of my portable classroom to supervise during passing time and I often find myself talking to students then too. In years past I stretched it to an 8 day cycle and would sit with a different table triad each day. That helped me find time and focus. For me, what it comes down to is giving students (and not grading, not email, not organizing, not planning, etc.) my attention each available moment. Finding or seeing those available moments can be difficult and like any regime takes focus and discipline. It won't always go as planned but if I take a flexible stance and look for the time each day it helps.

    2. I see what you mean. I always looked at a conference as a sit-down conversation, but I have so many "conversations" with students about books through the week. Sometimes it's helping a student find a new book, or asking how a book is going. So, I guess I do more than I thought.