Margin Notes

Reading Role Models


When I was teaching high school, I began protecting the equivalent of one class per week for independent reading time.  The message at that time was that teachers needed to be reading role models and should show students they are readers by engaging in their own reading while students were reading.

Fast forward a decade.  When I visit classrooms and talk with teachers, I am thrilled to see how this thinking has evolved.  Here in New Brunswick, our Provincial Reading Achievement Standards ask teachers to devote 20% of reading time to independent self-selected reading and most teachers find 10-20 minutes daily to be more effective and engaging than a full class period once a week. For many students, going days without reading disrupts their reading to the point where they become disengaged. As well as allowing students to remain engaged with their books, this pocket of daily time has become an extremely valuable component of reading instruction when we use it to:

  • confer with readers individually and in small groups
  • have reader-to-reader conversations that build relationships around books and reading experiences
  • support students’ individual growth as readers by offering just-at-the-right-time instruction
  • make and receive book recommendations
  • observe students’ engagement levels and reading behaviours for patterns and trends

Using the daily reading time in these ways is what helps readers progress. However, we do still want to share our reading lives with students. Here are some ways we can continue to be reading role models for students:

  • share regular, brief, informal book talks
  • gather mentor texts from your personal and professional reading
  • post an “I am currently reading” display
  • recommend books to readers with statements like, “I thought of you when I read this,” or “if you liked _______, you might enjoy this one”
  • make your To Be Read list visible to students and encourage them to do the same
  • share your reading life: how you find books, what books have impacted you, what books you have abandoned and why, what books you find challenging, what books you find easy, etc.

We never seem to have enough time in the day/week/quarter/semester/year to do everything we want to do with our students.  Using independent reading time with the intention of growing readers gives us more time to accomplish what we want and need to. And this doesn’t mean that we stop being reading role models; we just do it differently.

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