Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Want to make kids readers? It's simple. Ditch the textbooks and give them REAL books!

I love reading workshop.  I will never teach reading another way ever again.  For those of you who don't know what reading workshop is, rather than teaching entire books to a whole class, students get to pick and monitor their own books.  I follow Donalyn Miller's format of requiring them to complete certain genres, but then they can choose whatever books they want within that genre.

The past couple of weeks I have really started to see the growth in my students as readers, but today was the culmination of realizing how far they have come.  I did a midyear reading reflection, and these were some of the responses I got:

My reading habits have changed because in the beginning of the year I was struggling to finish five books.  Now I'm finishing a book in three days.  I'm getting faster.

I now have explored different genres.  Also, now I know where to look for books and to get a new one right after I finish one.

I have gotten faster and I take a book everywhere.

My reading habits have changed by me bringing my books to more classes now and I am reading during most of my free time.  I like how we have so much time to read in reading workshop.  It is amazing how many pages you can get done.  I also like how it takes your mind off things.  If I have a science or math test, I don't worry about it and just read.

My reading habits have changed by me having more excitement to read books, making me want to read faster.

My reading habits have changed since September because now I can really focus on one book and not hop around from book to book.

I like reading a lot instead of doing millions of worksheets because I've always liked to read.

I really like the reading workshop because I'm trying out different genres and it helps me find a book to read.  Also, it feels as if reading counts more.

Reading workshop is the highlight of my day.  I don't dislike any of it.

I like how you just read instead of worksheets

I like that we get to chose what we read.  Being told what to read is annoying.

I dislike nothing [about reading workshop].  It is my perfect idea of reading class.

I do consider myself a reader and no not just because I have to read for school.  I feel I didn't like reading so much at the beginning of the year as I do now.  I love reading now. 

Some of these responses brought tears to my eyes.  These are not just from the star students.  These are from all types of students.

And the ultimate response from a student was not on a piece of paper.  A student who fought me tooth and nail at the beginning of the year and refused to read has FINALLY been quite occupied in a book lately, came up to me yesterday and said, "Thank you for helping me get more interested in reading.  I haven't felt this way in a long time."  It just goes to show that you can have all the money, technology, and updated textbooks in the world, but when it really comes down to it, if you want to make kids readers and improve their reading, all you have to do is just sit them down with a plain, old-fashioned book.



  1. This just makes me want to shout, "Yay!" How exciting. I love the three girls sitting together by the window and reading. It makes me want to call my best friend!

  2. What grade do you teach? I'd love to get my 3-5 teachers on board with reading workshop. When students come to the library for checkout, it's always the same books that get checked out from week to week no matter how much I promote other genres, new books, movie tie-ins, you name it! Hmm, definitely need to think about how I can make this work in the library - thanks for sharing!

  3. Natalie,

    I teach 5th and 6th grade. I highly recommend reading The Book Whisperer, or at the very least, recommending it to the teachers at your school. It is so inspiring. I read it last year in May and was so bummed it wasn't September so I could start the workshop. I had been doing a very loose version of reading workshop for a few years, but it never had the structure that Donalyn Miller was able to give to me. Her book really gave my class a structure and purpose to reading workshop.