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Creating a Community of Readers in the Classroom

Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

This lesson gives classroom teachers some tips for creating a classroom that supports a community of readers, including optimizing the physical space of the classroom, modeling reading habits, and implementing practices that encourage reading.

What are the Features of a ''Community of Readers''?

Whether you are an elementary school teacher who teaches all subjects, or a secondary teacher who focuses on reading and English, creating a classroom that is clearly a ''community of readers'' is an important, but sometimes difficult, task. ''Community of readers'' seems like a general, idealistic phrase that may be hard to achieve if you do not know some specific features of that kind of environment. In this lesson, you will learn what this type of classroom looks like, what you as a teacher can do to support it, and how it can function on a daily basis.

What Does a Classroom for a Community of Readers Look Like?

First of all, you need to create a physical environment that supports reading. This goes way beyond having books in your classroom, though that is an important first step. Create a classroom library that is appealing to your students with a variety of genres and organized in an accessible way with a system for checking books in and out. It is a good idea to put a student in charge of keeping the books organized and keeping track of who has checked out what book and whether it has been returned. When students take turns being the ''librarian'' they become more invested in an important classroom procedure.

Another physical aspect of a classroom that supports reading is multiple areas where students can and want to read, such as bean bag chairs, rugs, pillows, or even couches. If students get to read in a special and comfortable space rather than just at their desks, they begin to associate reading with pleasure rather than just school work.

Students will also be motivated and encouraged to read by visible and interactive books lists and/or challenges displayed in the room. Some teachers post their own reading logs, and others help students set goals for how many books they want to read and display charts showing their progress.

How Can a Teacher Model Reading Practices?

Do not underestimate how powerful it can be for teachers to model, or show and explain, their own reading habits for their students. Teachers can post their own reading logs in the classroom to show that they read for pleasure consistently outside of school. They can also frequently weave in book talks, or short advertisements for books that they think their students might be interested in. Once a teacher has modeled these habits, he or she can encourage students to do the same.

How Can Teachers Help Students Set Reading Goals?

In addition to reading class-wide texts, it is important to encourage independent reading during free time at school and at home. This can be done by having students set reading goals for themselves for the school year. The goals can be based on the number of books read, number of pages read, on the reading level, or on a combination of these factors. It is important to acknowledge that it may not be appropriate for all of your students to have the same goal. Each student's reading goal should be a challenge for them but may be different from their peers' depending on their needs. Help students set reading goals based on their current reading habits and reading level and encourage them to support each other as they try to meet their goals.

What are Some Classroom Practices and Strategies to Encourage a Community of Readers?

First of all, it is important to give students time to read in class. Not all students have home environments or after-school schedules that are conducive to reading, which is why it is so important that they have a classroom with comfortable reading spaces to make it a positive experience.

Once you have modeled giving a book talk about a book that you have read, encourage your students to do the same. You could require that each student gives a book talk to the class at least once per grading period to show his or her comprehension of the book and to practice public speaking skills and give recommendations to his or her classmates. You can also have students gather in pairs to talk about their books, which would save time rather than have students individually give book talks to the class.

After helping students set their reading goals, have individual chats with them once per grading period to talk about whether they are meeting their goals, what books they have read and enjoyed, and what they can do to come closer to their goal in the future. This can be done while the rest of the class is working on an independent assignment and need not take more than five minutes per student; it is important for all students to know that you are taking an active interest in their reading lives and habits.

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