The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 1 - Page 40

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takes time, but it is also “a matter of continuous practice, development, and refinement” (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985, p. 18). To me, this refinement

means fine-tuning one’s taste in reading material and establishing an understanding of what works and what doesn’t work for each individual reader.

By week four of class with Benson, I finally felt we had made enough progress to take the next step. Instead of just talking about this and that, I brought over the book Rooftop by Paul Volponi and asked that he take some time to look through it, read the summary, and maybe give it a try. This young adult author is my #1 go-to for male reluctant readers, and he works. Every. Single. Time. Benson finished Rooftop in a matter of days, and before the end of the week he was asking for another book recommendation. We took a few minutes to casually discuss the plot, character, and theme of Rooftop (without using those academic words, of course) and talked about whether or not he was interested in another Paul Volponi book. He made a trip to the school library and by the beginning of the next week needed another recommendation. Benson ended up reading over 10 books that year. He read every book by Paul Volponi he could get his hands on, and then he had enough courage to ask the librarians for other books like Volponi's because there weren't any of his left!

Benson would come to class early and stay late to talk with me about the books he was reading and even started giving me recommendations. As students in my class finish an independent reading book, they get to show off a bit by filling out a book review form and putting a book review circle on the reading wall. Over and over again, Benson would stand up at the end of a reading session and head over to the book review binder, fill out his form and circle, and quietly tape it on the wall. He was reading so many books that we actually put a special section in the back of the review binder just for him so that he could quickly find where to place them. This visual representation of his accomplishments was a powerful pat on the back.

It took Benson a bit longer to buy-in than most students. What really got him to open the first book was simple. One, I stopped and got to know Benson. Two, I provided the time every single day for him to read. Those 15 minutes were there, every day, rain or shine. Three, I allowed him to read a book of choice. By the end of the year, Benson was one of my top readers—across all five sections and 150 students. This all started because he had the chance to read something of choice during class-dedicated, independent reading time. There wasn’t pressure to analyze anything or take a test over it. He just got to read. What a life-changer! If I could hold onto only one thing in my classroom, one tool or concept that has the greatest impact on students, I would absolutely hold onto independent reading time that includes reading choice. Stories like Benson’s, testimonies from my honors students, and appeals from those who come back to visit later in their high school career have given me reason after reason to believe in the power of choice, and independent reading time. At the end of day, what’s fifteen minutes of my time, anyway, especially if it leads to a life-long love affair with reading? That’s a powerful pat on the back.

References

Anderson, R.C., Hiebert, E.H., Scott, J.A., & Wilkinson, A.G. (1985). Becoming a nation of readers: The report of the commission on reading. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Education.

Routman, R. (2003). Reading essentials: The specifics you need to teach reading well. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Trelease, J. (1989). Jim Trelease speaks on reading aloud to children. The Reading Teacher, 43(3), 200-206.

Vacca, R. T., Vacca, J. L., & Mraz. (2014). Content area reading (11th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.

Jessica Mattson is in her ninth year of teaching English at Parkview High School in Springfield, Missouri. She is currently working on my master's in Literacy at Missouri State University.