I read these statistics this week about struggling readers and reading growth. Here are a few highlights from We Are Teachers.

  • Proficient third-grade readers are nearly five times more likely to graduate high school than their peers with below-basic-reading skills.
  • 82% of 6th grade students who fail an English course fail to graduate from high school. 82%!
  • Of 2.8 million students studied that read more than 30 minutes with high comprehension skills, 85% are nearly twice more likely than typical students to achieve college and career readiness studies. 85!
  • Of 9.9 million students analyzed, only those students who read 15 minutes or more a day made accelerated reading gains. 15 minutes!
  • Researchers have estimated children learn 1 new word for every 1,000 read.

My burning question as a public-school librarian of 28 years simply is, “Why do the majority of my students not want to read?”

What I hear when I ask my elementary school students is, “I have to read what my teachers say my book level is.” My middle school students tell me, “Mrs. Miller, we read in nearly every period of the day. I have four books checked out I am reading for four different classes.” Approaching my high school students about the topic leaves me with their statement, “I don’t have time.”

No. Time. To. Read. Seriously?
Being expected to read in nearly every class with a different book…..
Having to read what another person demands…..

Sadly, these remarks are common. My librarian buddies in other schools around Wyoming and even out of state say the same. What is a librarian to do? How can parents help? Who in the community can be a reading resource? Is it more important to enjoy reading than pay attention to the statistics?

As adults we all are smart enough to know forcing anyone to do anything proves disastrous. The same holds true for our children and students. I’m changing my burning question to, “How can I help my students want to read?” If I am successful they will find the time, they will understand why every school subject requires a different book for curriculum studies, and hopefully they will accept there is a reason to read not only at reading level, but above and below as well. Statistics are never going to go away, but I know in my heart if children want to read the statistics will improve.

Steal from me these strategies I plan to use in the upcoming school year. I am determined to turn the dislike of reading to at least a happy hum.

  • Audiobooks/Play Aways/Ebooks- I am going to use them more often and purchase them more often. Hearing someone reading a book confidently is a great way to experience fluency, which is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression. Audiobooks are perfect for those times on a school bus, traveling in a car, taking a walk, or even sitting listening for pleasure.
  • Model the love of reading- I’m taking the first 10 minutes of all my library classes I see weekly and read together with my students. I’m going to let them read what they want to read. Children take cues from adults. I want them to see me reading enjoying my book.
  • Offer books like candy- I am going to have different book displays everywhere in the library. I’m going to place reviews all over the building for new books I purchase. Yes, I plan to target the restrooms! I’ll have so many books out my library aides will have ‘chicken fit’ putting them all away as they are returned.
  • Be flexible- Students are going to be able to checkout more books. Long gone will be the days of checking out a specific number. This will help students be able to check out what teachers want, what parents want, and what students want. BTW: Graphic Novels are the bomb these days!
  • Get creative- Library classes are not going to be skills classes anymore. Of course I’ll teach the basics of how to use a library, I’ll still work in collaboration when asked, and I’ll still grade as necessary. Library is going to be a place of discovering the love of reading. We will laugh at the silly and gross books together. We will cry at the sad passages. We will read topics usually not read. Ha, bring on the fart books, the gross food books, and the slimy and creepy bug books. I plan to pair more art with reading. Oh the possibilities are endless and my brain is on overload thinking about books and hands on projects.

The photo you see here is Luke. We ended a weekly, summer tutoring session where we spent time together reading aloud, reading on our own, laughing, asking questions, and adding in a quick paint project correlating with the story. I’m going to do my best promoting and sharing the love of reading. I want ALL of my students to be like Luke when reading.

Smiling!