By Lynnly Sainsbury
San Luis Coastal School District
Independent reading at any grade level creates a challenge. Every student needs to read at least one million words a year to MAINTAIN the same reading level. With that said, after years of trial and error, I have a program that gets students begging to read.
At the start of the school year, I spend time coaching students on leading their weekly Book Club. Students learn techniques to highlight their independent reading book while engaging their audience, conveying a specific aspect of their reading, and planning for future reading. With these peer-centered groupings, students are required to read a million words a year and track their progress weekly. Students who exceed this requirement are rewarded with a special luncheon, free books, and recognition by the principal.
Peer pressure...that’s the key. I always have a book to share from the YA category at each Book Club meeting, but the club focuses much more on the books that their club members are sharing. Books get swapped continuously throughout the year as the verbal reviews are shared.
Self-management is another key aspect allowing students to run their own Book Clubs. At Los Osos Middle School, my colleagues have added their own spin on clubbing up readers. Therefore, by the time they reach my class, I can release them (with a brief bit of training) to run their club. The leader rotates each week; the time manager holds the group members accountable for wordiness; the participation tracker ensures that all members contribute. The members set goals for reading each week, that way they are accountable to the club for their reading.
I am an avid reader, but I had to switch my independent reading focus to be current with the YA genre. Holly Black, Laurie Halse Anderson, Angie Thomas, and Neal Schustermann are author favorites. While it can be awkward to stroll through the YA section of Barnes and Nobles, I find the payback tremendous as my literary discussions with my students are relevant and contemporary!