Reading for pleasure--not points

Boy readingClassroom teachers, principals and teacher librarians share a critical goal: to get students hooked on reading.  Some elementary schools adopt supplemental reading programs like Accelerated Reader or  Scholastic Reading Counts in hope of raising reading scores and developing a love of reading.  Instead, programs that try to motivate students by giving them points or rewards when they pass reading tests can lead to comments such as:  “Why do we have to check out books?  We’re done with Reading Counts, so what’s the point?”

Teacher librarian Nicole Guldager has found that students in highly restrictive reading programs based on extrinsic motivation do not develop an interest in reading.  As described in a recent Teacher Librarian article co-authored by Guldager, Dr. Karla Krueger and Dr. Joan Bessman Taylor, computerized supplemental reading programs may actually decrease reading motivation, particularly when students are only allowed to read books that match their program-assigned reading level.

Students can read outside their assessed reading level and still be challenged thematically and intellectually, explained Taylor, associate professor of school library studies at University of Northern Iowa. “Restricting book choice can negatively impact students’ reading skills as well as their reading motivation,” she said. “A teacher librarian is essential in helping students choose books that interest them and provide the appropriate level of challenge.”  

As an alternative or supplement to restrictive reading programs, Guldager, Krueger and Taylor recommend special events that promote pleasure reading such as Read for the Record or National Poetry Month.  On Talk Like a Pirate Day in September, teacher librarians share pirate-themed books and invite students to wear costumes, play games, and, of course, “talk like a pirate.”  Teacher librarians use such events to model a love of reading, promote reading choice, and involve students in fun, social reading activities.

A K-12 media specialist for the GMG Community School District in Garwin, Iowa,  Guldager gathered 31 different pleasure reading promotional events for her master’s research project in the School Library Studies program at UNI.  Most events are included in the Teacher Librarian article “Reading Promotion Events Recommended for Elementary Students” (June 2016) organized by month.  They can help “create a school culture of reading that goes beyond taking tests and earning points.”

According to Krueger, associate professor of school library studies at UNI, “There was no clear, annotated list of reading events before Guldager’s research.  We hope teacher librarians will use the list to plan fun events throughout the year, supplementing the critical work they already do to teach literacy and support young readers.”


Out and about 

Sometimes it can be hard to find teacher librarian Rachel Burrow in the library.  She is often in classrooms giving book talks, helping students create videos, and collaborating on research projects such as an eighth grade one-to-one project on the Star Spangled Banner. Her collaboration begins by going to Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings with classroom teachers and offering to help with their curriculum.  Social studies teacher Lynda Downs takes her up on this offer at least once a month. Read more.



What should I read?

As a middle school language arts teacher, Jessica Elliott noticed her students were increasingly more likely to look to their devices rather than to her for book suggestions. While researching students’ book selection preferences, however, she discovered that teacher and peer recommendations still matter. Elliott concluded, “Both male and female students strongly prefer selecting materials based on recommendations, just in more passive ways, such as book displays, posters, and bulletin board displays.”  Read more.


Hunting for books

Leann Seddon, the teacher librarian for the Albia Community School District in Iowa, noticed that a lot of her students were interested in hunting, but the district’s libraries did not have many books that involved the subject. When she discovered that there were no comprehensive lists of hunting books that included the way the book portrayed hunting, she decided to create a bibliography as part of her master’s research paper. Seddon’s complete master’s research paper and bibliography, “101 Books for youth that feature hunters & hunting” is available on Seddon’s website. Read more.


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