We have several new teachers who want to know more about Just Read, so here is an introduction for them and anyone who just wants to brush up on what Just Read can do for our students. If this sounds good to you or you just want to know more, come by and see me any time. If you want to join our team, you will fill out your Just Read contract and get your t-shirt!
First of all, I want you to remember the last great book you read. Did it call out for you to finish it? Did you find yourself still thinking about it for days later? Did it make you laugh right out loud or cry when no one was looking? Or did it give you a new perspective on something you had never even considered before? Did it make you want to have another reading experience like it? I bet you are now on the hunt of the next good book, aren’t you?
I imagine that one of the many reasons you became a teacher was so your students could also have this joy of reading, so they to would think more clearly or feel more deeply because of what they have learned. After all, reading is learning, and that is what we are all about as educators. What we want is for our students to continue this reading and learning always – to become not just readers, but searchers, always on the hunt for the next good book.
So how does Just Read fit in to what we want for our students? Here is the basic premise- If we want students to become people who choose to read all their lives, we have to let them have that opportunity right now, every day. Our goal is to give them the chance to develop the stamina and engagement to become real readers for life.
We talk a lot about why this is important, but the Just Read program has a plan for making this really happen and here it is:
Just Read asks teachers to volunteer to commit to giving their whole class time 15 to 30 minutes every single day to read whatever they choose to read without any kind of testing, assignments, or grades.
About now you might be worrying like this- but we have so much content to cover, we have the TEST coming up, how can I take the time to do this? And here is where I can tell you with all confidence that the more free choice reading a student does, the better they will do on any test. You can look at the data on the Just Read website for some more confidence about this, and I hope you do. You can also be happy to know that our school’s administration supports Just Read and will not mark you down for your students Just Read time.
The idea is that the Just Reading time is a balance of instructional and free choice reading. Just Read does not ask you to stop any reading instruction or any content teaching. I have a corny way for you to remember how to make this balancing act really work. The best practices you are committing to in the Just Read program are Access, Choice, and Time. (Get it? ACT? Sorry, those acronyms are just so handy, though, aren’t they?) These best practices are based on research about what makes free choice reading successful and we need to remember all of them to make Just Read not a waste of time.
Access- Students need access to lots of interesting books. Just Read teachers commit to making sure their students have plenty of access to the school media center and to encouraging use of the public library. I commit to giving my Just Read teachers ways to build their classroom libraries and for students to build their home libraries.
Choice- We have to let students have absolute free choice of their reading materials during this time regardless of reading level, format, or subject for them to become real ownership of their reading. We have to let them learn what they like and can read. Letting go of reading levels is particularly difficult, but remember that if the students are actually engaged in reading whatever it is they are reading, they will become better readers.
Time- The amount and quality of Just Read time are equally important. Creating a positive atmosphere is crucial for this success. A quiet but upbeat time conducive for reading is so important because many, maybe most of our students do not have this time at home. Every day reading is also important – just as any athlete will get out of shape without endurance training, we cannot let a day go by or our students will lost their stamina for reading. The more engaged they are, the more they will read and build their reading endurance, but it can be lost if we do not do this regularly.
What does the teacher do during this time? No grading or emailing or looking at the cell phone. During this time, the teacher is observing the students (while “reading” themselves) to see who is not actually engaged in reading. They make a plan to conference with these students and help them find something they are interested in reading. I will work with you to help your students find something they like to read! We will get them hooked on reading!
Does this sound like something you would like to try? Come see me and let’s get started!