Have you ever truly paid attention to what you do as a reader? What you’re thinking as you read, how you’re understanding the text, or what you’re remembering or what’s difficult for you?
Because I never paid any attention. Why would I? I was always labeled the good reader when I was in elementary school. I flew through the SRA box so I could read my own books. I scored well on the ITBS. I was always picked as the narrator.
It wasn’t until I was a graduate student in Developmental Reading that I was forced to look at my own reading strategies. I had to slow down because my professors made me incorporate what I was reading into what I was doing in my classroom.
It was Keene and Zimmerman’s Mosaic of Thought that forced me to look at myself as a reader. This book helped me understand the comprehension strategies used by proficient readers. It helped me realize how I dealt with different texts, and how to model and teach these strategies to my third graders.
It was this book that spurred the creation of a Google Site called Books and Reading Strategies. Very simply it gives up-to-date real literature that is especially perfect to explicitly teach and discuss comprehension strategies used by efficient readers.
You all know we have a place in the literacy learning of our students. Anything we can do to motivate and engage students in reading is part of our job as educators. And as librarians, we know the library is the most energizing room when it comes to literacy and learning.
“Yes, but reading right now is all broken down into skills and decoding and reading instruction is delivered to the teacher in the form of a manual coming in a box. All of my novel units are gathering dust!”
However, I would argue that best practices are still being used by some teachers. Pre-packaged curriculum does emphasize the reading comprehension strategies but they are taught in a formulaic fashion. It’s the amazing educators that push students to think deeper and engage with the texts.
I can’t tell you the number of times a teacher has come to me and said, “Do you have a good book for visualizing? Or how about helping kids think more about making inferences? Is there a book that lends itself to this?”
This is where the Books and Reading Strategies website comes into play. I can easily pass the link on to the teachers, and it’s simple to navigate. Along the top are the different comprehension strategies used by readers. Teachers can click on the tab they need, and they can find a list of books to teach this strategy.
The site is not flashy. There are no images. Under each tab is an extremely simplified definition of what the strategies mean, but I urge you, as adult readers, to pay attention to when you might use the different strategies. Can you think of something you read recently that was visual for you?
Underneath the definition of the strategy, you will find a list of books. Titles from previous years have been grayed out and moved down, but they are there, too. There are books that will help readers understand what inferences are, and books that will cause good readers to stop and say, “Wait! I don’t understand.”
Just the other day a student teacher in my building said, “I googled a good book for predicting, and some website said Pokey Little Puppy. Do you have that book?” I have no harsh feelings towards the little puppy or older books in general…
But we need to remember that kids today have immediate gratification through smartphones and iPads. While students might say, “My grandma reads me Pokey Little Puppy!” I propose they are going to be more excited about reading a fresh new book.
We have our own tried and true titles - ones that have worked since we were in elementary school ourselves, but as the book experts of the building, we need to share new books that will get kids excited about reading! The Books and Reading Strategies site is a perfect resource.
And I urge you, too: notice what you do when you read different text. Tax information will call for different reading strategies than furniture directions and fun and light novels will demand different actions than a historical nonfiction book.
To use Keene and Zimmerman’s words, we are the CEOs in the library - the Chief Example to Others. Model your literate lives. Don’t make comprehension strategies a mystery - talk about them aloud, to kids and to colleagues. Use the Books and Reading Strategies website to help teachers connect to kids in 2015 - to help them find success in reading.