“Teachers who are engaged readers do a better job of engaging students as readers. According to Morrison, Jacobs, and Swinyard (1999), ‘perhaps the most influential teacher behavior to influence students’ literacy development is personal reading, both in and out of school’ (p. 81).” Preparing Teachers with Knowledge of Children’s and Young Adult Literature, NCTE, 2018).
When we read and bring our reading lives into the classroom, our students benefit. Our experiences as readers help us develop literacy curricula that is responsive and authentic, and they help us develop a shared language for reader-to-reader conversations. Our personal and professional literacy lives provide us with the insider knowledge we need to support our students on their own journeys of developing and growing as readers, writers, communicators, listeners, thinkers, and citizens.
One of the simplest ways to make our reading lives visible to students is with the mentor text and book talk combo.
In What you Know by Heart, Katie Wood Ray describes what it means to read like a teacher of writing:
“Every time we see writing, we are seeing what we teach. We are seeing examples of what’s possible in writing, and so we have to read the texts we encounter across our lives differently than other people. We read these texts like teachers of writing. We are on the lookout for interesting ways to approach the writing, interesting ways to craft sentences and paragraphs and whole texts, interesting ways to bring characters to life or make time move or get a point across. When we read, we are always on the lookout—whether we intend to be or not—for interesting things we might teacher our students how to do.”
Reading in this way is a habit of mind for us as literacy teachers; we read everything with our eyes open for mentor text possibilities.
When we share these mentor texts with students in mini-lessons, writing conferences, inquiry units into genre or form, or quickwrites, we can incorporate a quick book talk or description of our how we came across the text and give students a glimpse into our life as a reader.
A few years ago, I started collecting these mentor possibilities in my writer’s notebook. This reading ritual has helped me developed the skill of reading like a teacher of writing and it provides an artifact of my reading life that I can show students when I share my notebook:
Combining book talks with mentor texts is a quick and easy strategy for sharing your reading life with students that you can try tomorrow.