Friday, February 25, 2011


I have stumbled into a reading Utopia in my very own classroom! Feel free to be jealous that I spent my Friday sitting in the sunlight reading "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin while glancing over the top of my book regularly to find the bowed heads of 20 high schoolers pouring over their own novels.

Silent reading day is a chance for us all to escape: to climb K2, or experience the future or even be bitten by a vampire. These kids come to me daily, begging to take books home, and on the rare occasion that I say no (because too many other kids are reading the same book) they try to stash them away in their backpacks like they're contraband! They come bouncing back into my classroom on Monday exclaiming that they finished it and it was a-MAZE-ing!

I have found a new favorite pastime...recommending amazing books to kids with an insatiable appetite for good reads!

I know that if I had read this about a colleague's classroom I would be salivating right now. "How?!" would barely escape from my lips. Heck, I wrote my graduate school thesis on this very topic, gleaning every morsel of knowledge on this subject from countless sources. But, here's the part where I'm going to let you down...I don't have the perfect recipe for this utopia! These kids just LOVE to read. I mean, LOOOOVE it! They beg for more SSR time and complain that 45 minutes per week just isn't enough (and they're right). It could be that the planets just aligned and these kids got it.

But here's what I DO know.
1. Having hundreds of books is where it starts. My classroom is literally the school library. I have books on just about anything. And if I don't have a book about it, I'll help you find it.
2. I have taken the whole school on a field trip to the huge downtown library and gotten them all their very own beautiful library cards! That's the next step...they have to know where to find good reads.
3. I read constantly! I read books that I think sound wretched and breathtaking. I read about things I don't care about, but know my students will. And I tell them about what I'm reading constantly! I get pumped about books and it rubs off! I keep a log of what I've read posted on my wall with recommendations, post my books on, and encourage all of my colleagues to do the same.
4. I HAVE to dedicate time in the schedule every single week to read. No matter how painful it is to schedule my curriculum around it, it HAS to be a priority. I cannot take it away as a punishment either. Create the culture...this is what we do. All of us!
5. I have to model it. Let me rephrase that, I GET to model it. How wonderful would it be to read for three hours during the day, a book YOU chose (and don't have to read out loud four times in the same day). Yeah, it is as incredible as you are imagining right now!
5. I let kids sit, lay, hang wherever they want in order to get into their book. Well, I mean within safe parameters inside my classroom of course.
6. When it's SSR time, that's all we are doing. No, you cannot make up work for your other class, spoon with your girlfriend, text your BFF or skateboard in circles. We are READING. It is the expectation, always. Not only's the privilege and they see it as such. If a kid starts screwing around, the others let him know to knock it off.

These are just a few of the things that I've found work for my kids. Maybe they can work for your kids. Do your students read? Do you want them to? Respond below! I can't wait to hear what you have to say!

Happy Reading!


  1. Mel, this is SOOOOO great! And your 6 steps, I did every single one of them in my 5th and 6th grade classes, including walking to the library to get them their own library cards and creating a humungous library in my own room of books they'd be attracted to, so it CAN be done in the elementary schools. The only thing I did differently was that I'd read aloud to them for 1/2 hour a day and have small book conference groups where we'd discuss the books. Of course I could do these 2 additional things because I had the kids all day instead of one period a day. Year after year, the reading period was indeed a Utopia, getting to introduce kids to books they never would have picked up but ended up loving. One of the extreme highlights of my teaching years. It's so exciting to see you carrying the torch! I still run into former students, now in high school or adults, that ask me the title or author of some book they remember and want to reread or share. What a joy!

  2. I LOVE your passion for reading! I think I got the passion from you! You get me to read things I never thought I would enjoy! Keep on reading and sharing the passion!!

  3. I'd have to say it was the opposite, Mom. Had you not constantly taken me to the library as a kid I may not have even gotten into this career! The public library was my Utopia. You and Aunt Geri started this. I'm just carrying the torch.