Last week, I sat in six hours of “Welcome Back to School” staff meetings. We discussed our new discipline program. We were trained to access our new email accounts. We were shown how to set up our new grade book program. We filled out health cards (again!) and numerous other forms. You get the idea.
Here are questions we did not discuss in those six hours: Do our students have access to high-interest books to read? How do we help reluctant readers find books that will draw them into reading? What steps can be taken by the faculty and staff to build a culture of reading on our campus? What are the consequences if we continue to graduate generations of students who do not like to read? Again, you get the idea.
Oh, and did I tell you my school has low reading scores?
Trying to teach students to become better readers without lots of interesting books to read is like trying to teach youngsters how to play the piano by simply handing them a photograph of a piano. To play the piano well, you have to have to have an actual piano in the room. You have to play a lot of piano. To read well, students have to have good books in the room and they need to read a lot of them.
It will not matter that you taught your students to identify foreshadowing if they don’t read a lot. It will not matter that you have mastered your new grade program if your students do not read a lot. It will not matter if your students pass all of their quizzes if they do not read a lot. It will not matter how many standards you taught if your students do not read a lot.
So…as we begin a new school year, let us not forget a central truism: making sure our students have access to interesting things to read might be the single most important thing we do this year. It is the first step in getting kids to read a lot.
More on this later, but for now I’d like to hear your thoughts on building a reading culture across an entire school.