Until children figure out what incredible knowledge, adventure, excitement and new worlds reading can share with them, it seems like a never-ending struggle for teachers to get kids to read. And, I have double the challenge as I am trying to get my students to read in French, as well as English. For my more advanced grade 4 and 5 readers they just simply don’t want to read in French anymore. They have discovered the joy they can get from reading (in English) and find it onerous to have to read a less interesting book to accommodate their French reading abilities. So, the challenge for me is to continuously find ways to incite my students to want to read in both languages.
At our school, the culture of reading, as an avenue for researching and for enjoyment, is promoted by our school librarians and our teachers as a whole and, quite regularly. Just this past Friday, we had one of our “family read-in” mornings where parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and various other relatives are all invited to read at the school for 30 minutes first thing in the morning. Mats are laid out in the hallways and the gym, and classrooms are open for children, and adults alike, to lie on the carpets and read. It’s wonderful to see my students lying on the floor with their younger siblings, reading to them.
Our librarians also ensure that the staff is aware of all new publications to the library which, I feel, is a crucial component to school literacy. After all, if the staff has no idea what’s new then how can we promote it with our students. Our librarians place the new publications around the tables during our staff meetings and they follow it up by sending an email with pictures of the books, magazines etc. They also send emails to inform us of themed-books that are available. For example, most recently, we were sent pictures of books that connect with Orange Shirt Day and residential schools.
I also appreciate that when we, students and teachers, enter the library there are many books on display. Some are grouped into themes and others by genre. Since I observed that many children will pick up the books on display, even just to flip through, I recently rearranged my classroom books by genre with placing books on display.
As mentioned in my first blog, I have discovered that graphic novels and comic books are my “gateway” books to better things… hopefully even chapter books! Recently, the excitement my students had over the new Amulet 8, Supernova graphic novel was a sight to be seen. I actually had to go buy another one! The most exciting part for me was watching the “Amulet fans” spur on the other children to read the series…even the French versions. Which brings me to a strategy that seems to work well in getting my students to read more in French: I provide them with the French versions of many of their favourite English graphic novels, such as, The Babysitter’s Club (Le Club des Baby-sitters), Amulet, and DogMan (Super Chien).
Another strategy that I use to encourage reading with my students is to read the first book in a series, whether in English or in French. I like to find books with cliffhangers at the end of each chapter and book, like Masterminds by Gordon Korman. My students couldn’t wait for each chapter and were even more excited to find out it was a trilogy. The other day I read The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl and, as of Friday, every Roald Dahl book in our classroom library is being read!
For my students still struggling with French reading, I encourage them to use Tumblebooks, (available through the Greater Victoria Public Library free of charge), and read along with the narrator. In class, partner reading and levelled books on similar topics allow students of all French reading levels to take part which selecting literature appropriate for their reading abilities.
What I loved about this YouTube clip is how it demonstrates that teachers can make a difference in a student’s reading career by making simple gestures:
- Offer choice of literature: books, magazines, comics, graphic novels, poetry etc.
- Make suggestions to your students about book choice
- Show that you are interested in them and what they are reading
- Make reading relevant to your students
- Have students share what they’re reading
- Ensure they have time to read and practice reading
- Show students what they are learning from reading
Finally, the strategy I use most with my students is MODELLING. Yes, I have marking and other such teacher-things I could be doing during silent reading time but, my students appreciate seeing me read with them. Many will ask me what I am reading and if it’s something the class would enjoy. Modelling reading is one of the most valuable lessons my students can learn: that I love reading as much as they do.
Cushman, Kathleen. 2010, May, 24. Building a School Culture of Reading. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3LCC6k5za4