Monday, May 23, 2011

The Secret Society for Selecting Stories

This week, the “Social Times” segment of the NY Times posed this question to its Facebook fans: “While writing about the First Book Marketplace for fixes, I got to thinking about books that make children fall in love with reading. I just read Roald Dahl’s book The BFG with my son and he was enraptured.  What book did you—or a child you know—fall in love with?" Naturally, I responded because I have such vivid memories of my second grade teacher reading aloud Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary and my third grade teacher reading aloud Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume.  When they read, I hung on to every word.  I begged for more when they closed the books.  And when they finished reading, I went to the library for more books by these authors.  When the Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary phase of my reading life ended and it was left to me to select my own books, I never picked ones that were as good as the ones my teachers read.   I came to believe that choosing great books was the result of belonging to some sort of secret society.  My teachers knew stuff that I didn’t and try as I might, I couldn’t replicate their success so I quit trying.  Eventually I stumbled upon Nancy Drew and that passion lasted for awhile but when fifth grade came around, I embarked on a reading dry spell that sadly lasted well into high school.  I read occasionally, but my reading habit went into a long period of hibernation.

As teachers, we are responsible for the reading growth and development of our students.  If we want our students to achieve increasing levels of proficiency, “long periods of hibernation” are simply unacceptable.  We are charged with the responsibility of cajoling and nudging and doing whatever it takes to ensure that children read.  This can be a particularly challenging charge; however, with reading proficiency so intimately linked to reading volume, it is probably our greatest responsibility as teachers.  But the question is how?  How do we get kids to want to read?

The answer is really not as complex as it seems. When my teachers introduced me to great authors through reading aloud, I was a reader.  When my teachers told me about books that I’d find on the shelves of my school library, I was a reader.  I only stopped when I could no longer find great authors and titles.  I stopped when that information became “secret.” When we ask, “How do we get kids to want to read,” the answer is simple: Invite them into the Secret Society for Selecting Stories by reading aloud and advertising books with the marketing zeal of McDonald’s. Every day pick up no less than five books and tell students something about the title or author or genre or series.  Let them know what’s out there!

The NY Times’ Facebook question yielded 144 responses.  People spoke fondly and  passionately about the books that turned them into readers.  The list was vast and varied and as I read through the titles it occurred to me that this list needed to be made public in a big way.  The more teachers know about books, specifically books that turn kids into readers, the better able we are to inform students.  If you’ve got students who look at reading as drudgery, be sure to check out the titles that people recommended.!/permalink.php?story_fbid=184828184899541&id=147881585260868  

But let this be only a beginner list!  Share with us the book that turned you into a reader!  And your children?  And your students? 


The Book Chook said...

Kim I would really like to link to this article of yours for a post I am doing for the kidlit list mid June. But I can't tell where the quote ends and your words start, and the facebook link won't work for me - maybe you need to "like" the page to see it? It just takes me to

Kim Yaris said...

Thank you for pointing out the lack of an ending quotation mark. I've fixed that.

As for the link, I'm not really sure what the problem is, as it seems to work even when I'm logged out of Facebook. Please try this link, and let me know if it works:

Also, make sure you let me know the link to your post, so that I can promote it.


The Book Chook said...

Back. Yes, second link worked fine thanks. First one still wouldn't.

My post will be at The Book Chook on 16 June. I will TRY to remember to give you the link.

The Book Chook said...

I remembered!