Community Resources for Reading Development

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will discuss how to identify and recruit a variety of community resources to promote reading development. These strategies serve to both engage the student in reading for pleasure and engage the community in improving literacy.

Once upon a time, students had to hide comic books or magazines within school textbooks so they could secretly read high-interest material without getting in trouble. In recent years, a radical shift in literacy education has taken place so the new philosophy has become, 'it doesn't matter WHAT they read, as long as they read SOMETHING!' Now instead of hiding these high-interest reading materials, teachers can assign graphic novels, blogs or even narrative-based video games as homework!

Bringing in the Community

The next natural step in such a revolutionary evolution in literacy instruction is connecting this interest-based model to the real world we hope to prepare these children to enter. For this to happen, we must introduce the community into the classroom.

An adult reading with a child

Besides the traditional standby of inviting volunteers to read with students, there are some unconventional ways to engage the community in your reading development curriculum.

Career Day

Nearly every school offers some variation of a career day in which volunteers, even parents, come to class to talk about their interesting work. This can provide a powerful opportunity to encourage these community members to emphasize how reading helps them do their job well. Ask them to talk about their favorite books and show that reading is fundamental to even the most exciting jobs.

The most popular career choices for children require reading. For example, police and firemen read incident reports and probably read lots of mysteries and adventure stories. Athletes read playbooks and likely enjoyed sports magazines back when they had to be hidden at school. Veterinarians have to know about all different kinds of animals and probably have a list of favorite animal stories that inspired them.

Encouraging career day participants to emphasize how much they loved reading in their youth and how that directly led them to that career path will place intentional focus on the importance of reading in an engaging way.

Other Community Members

When considering which community resources are ripe markets for supplementing your reading curriculum, leave no stone unturned. Anyone in the community can become a literary superhero to your classroom. Don't leave out the unconventional resources in the community that may prove your greatest asset.

Popular Culture

The most obvious of these potential guest stars can be found at your local comic book store! Contact the owner or manager of the comic book store nearest your school and host a field trip or even produce a classroom event that mimics some of the popular conventions. The comic book store would love the opportunity to recruit future customers and share their love of high-interest literature with children.

a superhero flies through the air

Your community volunteers are superheroes… whether or not they wear capes!

Students can come in a costume to play their favorite superhero or character. This kind of cosplay has become increasingly popular with the growing body of fantasy and science fiction genres. Chances are, many of your students have seen the movies or the TV shows with no knowledge of the graphic novels or comic books they are based on. You may even want to include staff from the local movie theatre to assist and donate popcorn.

Intergenerational Involvement

Another frequently forgotten population that can be a vital resource in your literacy curriculum can be found playing bingo or bridge in the local nursing home. Elderly community members often have an abundance of time on their hands and would love nothing more than to be invited into the classroom as a volunteer reading helper.

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