Our students love to read, they love to talk about what they're reading, and they absolutely love it when they can talk to their teachers about what they're reading! In order to promote those conversations and continue our work around secondary literacy, we would like to request an Excellence in Education grant to provide each teacher on campus with a classroom library stocked with titles from genres that they themselves like to read and can talk about with their students.
While all of our English teachers have classroom libraries of free reading books to choose from, and our librarian has an excellent collection of young adult literature, we are finding that many of our students have interests in genres and other types of literature that align with many of our staff members. For example, one of our teachers has brought in his collection of science fiction novels and lends them out to students on a regular basis. His knowledge of that genre has created connections with his students, opportunities for conversations about those books, and recommendations for those students who are interested in that particular genre.
We would like to create those opportunities in each classroom so that each student on campus has quick access to a novel (especially for the free reading period in Pathways once a week) as well as an adult on campus with whom they feel comfortable discussing books. Thanks to our efforts around secondary literacy, we are seeing more and more students with books in their hands on a regular basis, students racing each other to the library when they learn the book they want next has been returned, and an increase in our ELA scores on state tests. We want to continue that positive momentum by creating a culture of reading where it's the norm to discuss books, make recommendations, and explore new types of literature.
Research around adolescent literacy emphasizes the need for students to have more choice and freedom in the titles they choose to read. When students are engaged in what they're reading and read at least twenty-minutes a day, they are increasing their vocabulary, stamina around reading, and ability to access increasingly complex text.
In Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers, Penny Kittle argues that, "we must connect students to books that force them to pay attention, to think and wonder, to imagine and believe, and then to read for the rest of their lives" (Kittle, xvi). We can facilitate those connections by giving all staff members on campus access to a library of books in their own classrooms that they are familiar with and can recommend to students. Not everyone is an expert on young adult fiction, nor does everyone need to be. The strength in our school and district lies in our connections with students, and reading is simply another opportunity for students and teachers to connect over a book that they both read and have that discussion on what they liked, or didn't like about it. It is interpersonal communication, academic discourse, and relationship building all rolled into the simple question of, "well, what did you think of that book?” The other benefit of this program would be that each teacher would have books to lend students who forget their free reading book during the Pathways reading period, thereby ensuring that they're not missing out on the opportunity to read during that time.
The success of this program would be determined by the number of times teachers lend their books out to students, as tracked by a Google Form or similar checkout sheet. The other indicator of success would be the number of conversations staff members have with students about what they're reading. This would be tracked through anecdotal evidence as well as by a survey conducted by the Literacy Coach periodically to determine the success of the grant. This program would enhance the school-wide culture of reading by making conversations about books an integral part of every content-area classroom.
If the grant is funded, the Literacy Coach will gather a list of titles from each teacher that they feel comfortable discussing with students and either have read or would be willing to read. If a teacher is unsure of what novels to choose, the Literacy Coach and librarian will collaborate to help that teacher select the books that they would like to have in their classroom.
Once a list of titles has been compiled, the Literacy Coach will then order the books, distribute them to teachers, and help each teacher develop a check-out system to ensure the books are being kept track of throughout the year. A survey of progress would then be completed on a quarterly basis to track the number of books checked out as well as the number of conversations teachers are having with students about what they are reading.
Yes! This grant is designed to benefit all grades and content-area classrooms.