There was never a time that I didn’t love reading. At my small country school, I was allowed to read whatever books called to me. Every classroom had a selection of books; we even had a library downstairs. I finished books at my own pace, and I chose what was next on my list. My friends and I exchanged the books we loved. We talked about our favorites. We were passionate readers, and we fueled each other’s fires.
My school raised me up in an environment that fostered a love for reading. There was no doubt about it. I carried my love with me as I reached high school. One of my English teachers was always asking about the books I was reading. She had a genuine interest, which surprised me. After seeing the kinds of books I read, she began giving me recommendations. I began to see that she was invested in my reading life.
So how do we grow readers? Is the answer as simple as my childhood would indicate? I think so. My love for reading was the product of an environment that didn’t allow for any other options.
Students need to be given the expectation that every single one of them is a reader.
But how can we do that?
- Readers need time to read. It may seem obvious, but I don’t think students actually get much time in class for pleasure reading.
- Readers have a choice in the books they read. I read what I wanted, period. Sure, I had recommendations from friends and teachers, but call them what they were: recommendations.
- Readers need a space to talk about what they’re reading with peers. After I finished a page-turning book, my first reaction was to always call my best friend. Either Abby had told me I should read it so we could talk about, or I was about to tell her to do just that.
- Readers need a space to talk about what they’re reading with teachers. I loved when my teachers asked me what I was reading. I loved when they were genuinely interested in my plot synopsis. I was especially touched when a teacher took the time to get to know me well enough to recommend books.
We grow readers by giving them space to develop. We allow them to grow deep roots. We allow them to bloom. Meanwhile, we are gently watering and watching our flowers prosper.