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


Mind The Gap


Last week, during a professional learning session with a group of middle school teachers, we provided copies of the inspiring resource Passionate Readers by Pernille Ripp.  As we read the section “Teacher as a Reading Role Model,” one question that made us stop and think was, “What are your own book gaps?  What do you not read?” We circled around that question for quite a while, pondering how our own reading preferences may inadvertently cause us to be gate-keepers when building classroom libraries, recommending books, and presenting book talks.  We realized we all have preferences and gaps and if we don’t recognize and address them, we are unintentionally narrowing the impact we have on readers and by missing opportunities of getting the right book into the hands of a student because we are missing entire genres.

Pernille Ripp believes, and we agree, that if we don’t acknowledge our own book gaps, we become more of a genre lover than a book lover.  This is okay in our own reading lives but not as a teacher of readers.


As a team, we identified our own reading gaps and tried to address them:

Jill: I naturally gravitate toward realistic fiction and historical fiction. I love to read books, both (more…)