Reading is the fundamental cornerstone of learning. Schools place a strong emphasis on its importance, and skilled educators with a flair for reading and literacy education are in demand. Both online universities and traditional colleges offer programs that emphasize the development of reading skills in their MS in Education (MSEd), PhD in Education, and EdS degree programs. Reading K–12 endorsement programs are also available for educators who wish to specialize in reading and literacy.
This emphasis on reading and literacy has generated positive results, including those released in a study conducted by Arroyo Research Services.* The research showed that students of teachers who graduated from Walden University’s MS in Education program with a specialization in Elementary Reading and Literacy experienced improvements in reading fluency—which reinforces the instructional efficiency of the educators. But just how does an educator foster a lasting passion for reading among his or her students? Author and teacher Donalyn Miller says that it’s possible to turn every child into a reader. In her publication entitled The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, Miller shares these helpful tips with fellow educators—or anyone with a desire to foster a passion for reading:†
Validate reading choices: Allow and encourage students to read what they want. In doing so, you validate their interests and culture. And when you show your approval of their choices, they’ll be more likely to take your advice on future book recommendations.
Introduce authors through read-alouds: Choose some favorite books that are age- or grade-appropriate, within your school’s reading K–12 program, and read to the class (or to the individual student in your life) each day. Expose them to about 15 different authors who have also published a number of other books; if they’re interested in what they’re reading with you, they can find similar works to read and enjoy on their
Create an understanding of reader terminology: Students must understand the common language readers use so that they can effectively discuss and investigate books. While plenty of students understand the difference between fiction and nonfiction, they must have a firm grasp of different genres. Through classroom and at-home book discussions, children can build and share their knowledge of core elements such as character types, plotlines, and settings.
Identify books in each genre: When the classroom or public library is organized by genre, students gain a better understanding of the different categories of books and learn what each has to offer. Create a “genre characteristics” worksheet and, based on your classroom instruction or personal experience, have young readers define each genre and list the main differentiating characteristics. You might also try giving children a tub of books to organize by genre by reading the back covers and using what they’ve learned about genre characteristics.
Keep a reader’s notebook:
This is a simple notebook where young readers can record information about what they’re reading. The sections might include:
A tally list with columns for genre, title, author, and the date the book was finished or abandoned.
An assessment of the book’s difficulty.
Future reading list to include sequels and recommendations.
Personal reflections and reactions to what the author wrote (educators and parents may use this section as well, asking questions that dig further into the student’s interpretation and appreciation of the book).
Miller has each of her students read 40 books a year. This task could prove daunting, but she allows her students to choose their own books, empowering and engaging them from the start. And even if a sixth grader’s book choices sometimes seem to lack substance, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s okay for a student to read books that seem mindless—what matters is that they’re reading in the first place.
Donalyn Miller teaches sixth grade language arts and social studies in Keller, Texas. Author of The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, she introduces educators to a practical and inspirational approach for turning every child into a reader. Her book has been used in online learning courses for teachers.
*Walden University, “Linking Teacher Learning to Student Success,” 2009 Research Findings, on the Internet at www.waldenu.edu/masters/ms-in-education/highlights/teacher-learning-student-success.