In a local newspaper piece, Jennifer Rand, a high school English teacher in State College, Pa., writes that she has come to a realization about why students today don't seem to share her own love of reading. They are too simply too busy:
Many of my 120 10th-graders have several of the high-level, academically rigorous classes that State High has to offer in their current schedules. A large number of them don't even have lunch (what does it say when many of our students don't schedule time in their day for a 40-minute break to eat and relax?) ...
I've spoken to other teachers who, like me, surveyed their students at the beginning of the year. Our findings were consistent: The last time many high school students read a book, start to finish, was sometime in middle school. I suspect there are myriad factors. Lack of down time and the distraction of technology top the list.
Rand says that her district is putting a major emphasis on literacy improvement, complete with new diagnostic-testing and professional-development initiatives. But none that is likely to give students the time (or even the skills) they need to enjoy reading, so she's come up with her own alternative approach: Building "free-reading days" into her class schedules and working with the school librarian to help students select books for these days. She's seeing some progress:
So far, this move has been a great success. I've seen a marked increase in organic discussions about books in my classroom. Most of my students have their books on hand at almost all times and many are now skilled in the practice of taking out their books to read when they've completed their other classwork.
If you're looking for more ideas and inspiration like this, you may want to check out our upcoming PD Webinar with Donalyn Miller, whom Rand mentions in her article. The celebrated author of The Book Whisperer, Miller will be talking with us about "Cultivating Deep Reading Skills and Habits in Students." (She'll also address how strategies to encourage independent reading can be integrated with standards and testing imperatives.)
Miller is just one of a stellar line-up of presenters we have on tap for our PD Webinar series on Deeper Literacy: New Insights and Strategies for Teachers. Join us.