What impacts student achievement? High yield instructional strategies? Absolutely! John Hattie’s influences on student achievement? Without a doubt! Marzano’s nine instructional strategies? Without a doubt. And, I am passionate about all of these because they increase the chances student achievement exponentially.
However, there’s this one other thing I do as a teacher and coach that reaches kids like nothing else: exhibiting the love of reading and exposing them to the adventures and lessons that lie within the pages of a book.
I’ve written on this topic before (see “Mrs. Palmer Has Changed my Life” and “Inspire the Desire to Read”) so I won’t make this a repeat of that. But, I will say, after presenting a lesson involving critical thinking tied to the Shadow Children Series by Margaret Peterson Haddix, I was reminded of this impact. I relived the impact, the feeling it gave me to see the sparkle in the eyes of kids as they got so excited to read a book. And, what did it take? Just a little discussion and intrigue via a values line continuum and a few minutes of showing book trailers.
What’s my evidence for knowing this impact exists, other than my observation of how engaged the kids were by simply talking about the series? Other than noticing how they asked with a hope in their voice “how many copies does our library have?” Other than them asking questions of each other that exhibited deep critical thinking? All that was a teacher’s dream; it’s why we teach. But, here’s the best thing. Afterwards, a parent of one of the kids I presented to said that her daughter came home that day with a degree of excitement that was immeasurable. She had such an excitement for the book series and reading in general that her mom had to buy the series immediately. And, this was motivation to read in a child that had been lacking for quite a while. That was one of those moments we never forget as teachers. It could potentially be the start of a life-long reader.
Here’s the thing: we have to instill life-long reading in our kids, and I’m here to say it can be done. I’ve seen it time and time again. Why is this so important? Among other reasons, voracious reading has a huge effect on student achievement, not just reading achievement. We have to get our kids reading more and reading because they want to. How are they going to get better at applying the skills and strategies we teach them, if they don’t read? It’s like a coach teaching a basketball player to do a lay-up and then never giving them time to practice. We have to get our kids into books to “practice” and apply the five components of reading. And, just as important, we want them to build the foundation to make this a life-long activity. I urge you, make the time in your school day to make things like this happen. You will leave school that day with a warm heart.