The following article, written by a LYS Teacher, was originally published in the Midland Reporter-Telegram on 11/02/2010, Page C08. Teachers, parents need to set students on path for love of reading I am an avid reader. Reading is what I love to do on a night by myself, a rainy afternoon, or any day ending in “y.” I can think of nothing better to do than curl up with a good book and lose myself for several hours in a world completely different from my own. I teach reading. In my 12-year career, I’ve always taught reading in some shape or fashion. My first year as an educator was spent as a Title 1 aide where I pulled small groups of struggling readers. These students, in a rural Oklahoma setting, had many strikes against them becoming avid readers. Most of these students came from poor families that did not value reading or education. Many had small farms that took the time from the students after the school day had ended. As a primary teacher for the next eight years, I had varying classes of poor and middle-class students. For the most part, all of these parents wanted their children to succeed. We read together, read silently, read orally and checked out books from the library every week. Yet I still had struggling or reluctant readers. This summer I had an “a-ha” moment. About to enter my third year teaching sixth grade, I did quite a bit of professional reading. I read a book that changed my life, or at least my view on reading. I read the book “Readicide” by Kelly Gallagher. He suggests that schools are killing the love of reading. Test practice and reading the textbook word-by-word or page-by-page do not a reader make. I had one teacher in high school where on Monday we read the chapter out loud, one person reading at a time. Tuesday was vocabulary day. We looked up every vocabulary word in the book’s glossary. Wednesday we did the questions at the end of the chapter. Fridays we took a test over the chapter. Ugh! Just remembering it makes me realize why some of my classmates must hate reading. Instead, Gallagher suggests students need help to enjoy great literature. Classics are classics for a reason, and every well-rounded student needs to learn to enjoy some truly monumental literature. But in order to enjoy the classics, students need to be scaffolded every step of the way. You don’t hand “Romeo and Juliet” to a struggling reader and expect him or her to “get it.” You teach them how to make the connections, how to read for deeper meaning and how to enjoy the beauty of great writing. But even more importantly, students need to be given time to read books of their choice — whatever they want to read. Now, I’m a reading teacher, so I’m expected to say something like that. But let me put on my coach’s hat for a moment. If I want to become a better free throw shooter, I can read books about free throw shooting, take multiple choice quizzes about free throw shooting, or I can even watch some truly great free throw shooters. But how am I going to become a better free throw shooter? I have to practice shooting free throws. The same goes for reading. In order to become a reader, a student needs to read — not because they have to but because they want to. That means, as teachers and parents, we need to provide every resource for our students to practice reading. A recent study from the group Reading is Fundamental found that most classrooms have fewer than 50 books in them. Choice is the key. So what can we do as parents, teachers and community members? First, classrooms need books. Clean out your closets and bookshelves and donate any age appropriate books to your local school. Secondly, give books as gifts. When my son is invited to a birthday party, a book is always included in the gift we bring. Children need books at home as well as in school. Give books to teachers or schools in your local neighborhood. Give teachers gift cards to bookstores. The more books children have around them, the more likely they are to become readers. Finally, read yourself. Students need to see good reading modeled. Elementary teachers do this every day during silent reading time and read-aloud time. But even junior high and high school teachers need to model good reading. Every once in a while, throw in a picture book that correlates to what you’re studying. I guarantee your older students will enjoy it as well. My job as a teacher is to make my students into lifelong learners. I really feel my job is to make them into lifelong readers. Once the reading is there, the learning follows. STACEY CALLAWAY Think. Work. Achieve.Your turn…

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