By Kathryn Robinson, National Director of Practitioner Development

It’s that time of year!  Back to school and time for students to hit the books--assigned and self-selected books, that is. You see, in addition to helping students fulfill their assigned classroom reading, we also want to be supportive of students selecting and reading books for their own personal enjoyment.  You may be wondering, is it really as important to ensure Johnny is reading  those Captain Underpants books he loves?  Yes, it really is.  In fact, reading for pleasure is an important indicator in a child’s future success. Research from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development suggests that students who read for pleasure at the age of 15, “demonstrate an intrinsic desire to engage with stories, texts, and learning... revealing a predisposition not just to literature, but to the sort of lifelong learning that explains increased social mobility.”

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City Year Americorps members can help with this!  By helping students cultivate their taste in varied book genres and authors and by introducing students to reading material that is both interesting and relevant to them, we can help instill a sense of pleasure in reading for students. How can we do this?  Here are several ways to get started:

  1. Lead book talks with students! Not sure what those are or how to conduct one? Then take a peek at Cambridge Public Library’s teen librarian, Maya Escobar, sharing tips on conducting book talks.

  2. Have students review (or possibly even create) book trailers. What’s a book trailer? Think movie trailer, but for a book instead. They’re short, fun teasers that can quickly expose students to several options for the next book they may want to read. You should check out the Read Write Think website for some cool lessons on creating book trailers, too.  

  3. Talk with students about any reading they may have done over the summer. Sometimes students just need someone to talk to about what they’ve read to encourage them to keep reading. Here are some new, popular books that might have made it on to their summer reading list. If none of those strike a chord, then check to see if your school has a summer reading list that you can use for reference.

 Check out our AmeriCorps Members in action celebrating Literacy month.

Finally, if you want to encourage reading for pleasure, then it has to be a practice you engage in as well!  Model, model, model! Students who see important adults in their lives reading are more likely to be readers.  Make sure students catch you reading and that you talk to them about what books you are reading at the moment.  Capture the Flag by Kate Messner, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, and The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner are a few I’ve heard great things about, but personally,  I’m deep into reading picture books with my young son right now.  If that’s more your speed, then you should definitely check out our favorite right now, What a Wonderful World.  It’s based on the world famous song by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss and beautifully illustrated by Tim Hopgood.  Remember, as with any positive behavior we’d like to see students emulate, being a consistent role model of that behavior is key, and the same rule applies to modeling positive reading behaviors!


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