This weekend I discovered that the new Shakespeare & Co book store (yes! for independent booksellers!) has opened on the Upper West Side. I chanced upon it on opening day and just had to go in. It is beautiful with a cafe in front so you can sit and read your new books! I walked out with three new books to add to my ever growing pile of books to read (There There by Tommy Orange, Spy School by Stuart Gibbs (a children’s book), and Well-read Black Girl edited by Glory Edim). Apparently, Tsundoku is a Japanese word for a stack of books that you have purchased but not yet read. I have a tsundoku at home, one at school, and another on my kindle. I can kind of read multiple books at once. But mostly, I pick one up and have to read it all the way through. If I pick up another book midstream, I put the first aside for a while. Reading nurtures my curiosity. I find new questions, new insights, and new information (and vocabulary.) It also provides a great escape. Lost in a good book I can almost shut out the testifier shouting about the bible on my morning commute.
This year we are really putting a lot of effort into building the independent reading habits of our students. Independent reading is shown to build knowledge, vocabulary, and empathy. Increasing reading by just 10 minutes a day has impressive impacts on student test scores. But mostly, reading daily improves reading ability. (Links to some research are below.)
We have already begun this work by refreshing classroom libraries.
We are selecting books with more diverse characters that represent more authentic experiences. We want our students to be able to see themselves and their life experiences reflected in the books they read and to learn about the range of experiences of others in their reading choices. We have been buying books that are from the end of year recommended lists from the NY Times and by professional science and social studies teacher organizations. We also have a number of the books that won YA National Book Award prizes this year. We are looking forward to the annual Newbery, Caldecott and other prize winning lists that usually are released in December. (And this nurtures my habit of visiting brick and mortar book stores to find what is new and interesting in the world of publishing for young people.)
We are nurturing a love of literature from an early age. Early childhood teachers continue to read aloud books to students and leading them in discussions. In the middle grades, teachers are using read alouds to teach students to track characters and plot development and how these lead us to uncover the larger themes in the books. In middle school, students are applying reading skills in more sophisticated ways about more sophisticated texts.
At home, this work can be furthered by engaging your children in conversations about the books you read, the books your children read, and things you read online, in the paper, or magazines. (We want our children to be reading widely in fiction and non-fiction.) You can talk about how characters are developed and how they are influenced by setting or other characters as well as what the book is making you think about.
And it is important to read to and with your children regardless of how old they are. When we share books with others, we model the importance of books in our own lives.
Some research on the benefits of reading: