“We’re gonna read about WHAT?!?!”
At the beginning of each new unit at school, I hear this. A lot. Loudly.
They roll their eyes and gnash their teeth much like the Wild Things. I pretend to be afraid. Inside, I smile. Teaching middle schoolers means there is never a dull moment.
Picking Reading Materials
At school, there are certain educational standards I need to meet. There are IEP goals I have to make progress towards. Kids have learned that reading is about taking text apart. Then putting it back together in a 5 paragraph essay to show the teacher how smart they are.
But that isn’t authentic reading.
As an adult, nobody asks me to write anything about the books I’ve read. Or take a test on it.
When I pick reading materials for school, I try to find things that engage them. Text to make them laugh, or cry. How can I get them to think, or be digusted? If there is a way to teach the topic through other senses, I seek that out. We read as much as we can in as many different generas as I can find. This is where I hold everyone’s attention — mine included.
Real Life Reading
With the first grader I tutor, we are reading about plants. I will be the first to admit that the fluency passage I use to measure his progress isn’t the most interesting. The passage is about plants (Some can be big. Others can be small.) and was written using as many of the same sight words as possible since the reading vocabulary of a first grader is limited. After we got done with the reading, I asked some comprehension questions. Then came the magic. We broke out a tiny greenhouse!
Here is where the authentic reading comes into play. He had to read the instructions (not written on a first grade level) for the first experiment. We are going to read some picture books, some non-fiction books, do a few worksheets to practice spelling. And as many experiments as we can!
He will roll his eyes and gnash his teeth when I ask him to stop and prove a word. However, the Wild Rumpus will begin when those mystery seeds start to poke up shoots above the soil! He will be engaged with the reading that moves him toward a new experiment. The teeth gnashing and eye rolling stop when his hands and his mind are fully engaged in the activity. Including the reading.
In fifth grade, my readers are reading about Entomophagy — eating bugs. It is just gross enough to hold their attention, and cool enough to make them ask questions. We read some non-fiction about the cost of raising beef versus raising crickets. Next week we will take a look at the My Plate recomendations. They will write an argumentative letter to the Principal convincing him to putbug on (or keep them off) the school lunch menu. The week after they will write a research paper on a bug of their choice. After we finish reading How to Eat Fried Worms, I get permission from parents for them to try a roasted cricket. They all shudder and act like they will throw up. Until their teacher eats them without blinking. That will make them feel the need to prove they aren’t afraid.
Applying this to Home
But, Ms. Jana, I’m not a school teacher! We aren’t going to be studying topics at home.
Really? What are your readers currently into right now? Hockey, ax throwing, elastic band bracelets? I bet there is a book for that! Even if you aren’t able to find a books on the specific topic, then there is sure to be one that you can connect to the interest. Be sure to look into fiction and non-fiction. You never know what genera will grab the attention of your reader.
For the reader interested in hockey, there are technique books, fiction stories, biographies, and books not about hockey written by former players. If your child is into ax throwing, there are again guides to improve the skill, fiction books (Hatchet by Gary Paulsen), or survival skills books. For the reader into making braceltes, what about books on entrepernurial endevors or managing money?
Get into the guts of the project with them! What is sparking their drive, and how can you help them expand knowledge on that topic and others? Help them to process what they read. Here are a few question to ask:
- What did you learn in your reading?
- What is happening in your book? (If you aren’t reading with them)
- What part did you like the best? (If you are reading with them)
- What questions do you have now?
- What questions did this reading answer?
- Do you think this author is credible? Why?
Here are my top seven ways to encourage authentic reading:
- Let your kids catch you reading. If you aren’t modleing that for them, how do you expect them to pick it up? Instead of scrolling through social media, pick up a magazine or a book. Instead of automatically turning on the TV, read something. If you are in the car, find a audio book to listen to with the family.
- Tap into their interests. Or introduce them to something that might connect to an interest they have had in the past. At the age where they like jokes, get some joke books. Painting, pick up some art books, or biographies of artists whose art they liked. Visit museums to spark interest in other areas.
- Change out books when you change out clothes for the season. If your child has outgrown the clothes in their closet, they most likely have outgrown the books on their shelves! Pass books down to younger siblings or neighbors. Rotate the books that are in their bedroom and your family living spaces. I try to keep a basket of books in the living room and a basket of magazines in the bathroom. Changes these out monthly!
4. Keep a variety easily accessible. Again, book baskets in living spaces. Bookshelves in their bedrooms. Books in play spaces. Fiction, non-fiction, picture books, chapter books, poety. Magazines, activity books, audio books. Any way you can get it to them!
5. My kids have to earn screen time. They get it by doing jobs and reading. Reading for 10 minutes equals 10 mintes of screen time. Give them an incentive to read!
6. Set aisde time each day as a family to read. We have picked the end of the day just after brushing teeth and before bedtime prayers. I’ve found that this give me some weight when they are daddling and not getting ready quickly. I read a younger book and then an older chapter book. Right now was are trying to read 6 Newberry Medal winnign books by the end of the year together. I have a friend who is reading the entire Harry Potter series as a family. Find something fun that you can all agree on!
7. Visit book places regularly. I have a few bookstores we stop in at after we do an activity the kids love that I’m not necessarily a fan of. They learn to take turns in doing things of interest, and they also see that I place a value on books. Stop at yard sales to look through books. Visit the library — there are some amazing programs there! Make a family trip to the library. Bonding over books is a great way to spend an hour.
Need Reading Recomendations?
Not sure where to go to get your kids started? I would always suggest a teacher or a librarian. They often do a lot of reading and know a lot of different sources to get started in.
My book store has some Amazing books on a lot of different topics! Check me out: Ms Jana’s ecommerce
I love giving recomendations! Let me help out! All you have to do is drop me a comment with the ages and interests of your readers. I’ll do my best to help you find a just right book!