Teacher friends: I highly recommend looking up Donna Miller if you haven’t already. Her interview, Creating Readers sheds light on some very important things to think about when trying to nurture young readers. As a self-proclaimed “book whisperer”, Miller has turned many students into lifelong readers. She puts a big emphasis on reading in her classroom.
Her first comment that stood out to me was about how she does such a phenomenal job at matching kids with books. “Like many teachers, I stand on the shoulders of the great ones for what they have taught me about inspiring readers and writers, and building community.” I think this is huge. When we are inspired by someone, we should pay it forward by inspiring someone else. Books are a great way to build community—a book can be a unifying factor to an otherwise isolated group of students.
The single greatest thing that I took away from this interview was that we need to meet readers where they are. We can’t expect students to all like the same book, or even the same reading platform (article, essay, poem, ect.). She talked about how many middle school boys like books with crude humor. As long as the book is age appropriate, let them read it! It is better to have a student reading something instead of nothing. If you let students take ownership in their reading, they are more likely to enjoy it.
Ultimately, as a teacher, I think you need to be real with your students when it comes to reading. Instead of forcing kids to sit and read for an hour a day, have them have a book on hand and read when they can. (A tip Miller highly recommends). Focus less on the tests and projects, and more on the discussions that come naturally from the book that the author intended for us to have. That is going to be how we create lifelong readers.