• OUR READING PROGRAM
     
     
    Goals:
    The primary goal of my reading program is to help encourage students to be life-long readers.  For those who are already avid readers, my goal is to help each grow as a reader by urging them to read books from nine different genres of literature.   Ultimately, I hope students will fall in love with reading, want to read, want to read more, and discover an enjoyment for genres of literature they did not previously enjoy.
     
     
    Benefits:
    Research study after research study shows that being an avid reader increases students success in school and beyond.  There are a plethora of studies and statistics that show the relationship between strong reading skills and academic and career performance.  Another benefit is that through reading, students have an opportunity to "meet" a variety of interesting, inspiring characters.  They"travel" to places all around the world and even to other worlds, galaxies and time periods.  Students are able to expand their imagination, vocabulary, and writing skills.  Additionally, reading gives students a peaceful, quiet time in their day where they can step outside of their own world and into another.  
     
     
    What is the actual reading program/curriculum?
    The "curriculum" is simple.  Student read.  The premise is that students become better readers by reading, reading a lot!  In order to get students to read, students are given almost complete choice about what they read.  Students are more likely to read if they are reading books that they are interested in. Choosing their own books empowers students and also allows students to read books that are accessible (at the appropriate reading level).  One way to get students to read outrageous amounts of books is to set an outrageous goal.  I have set a goal for students to read 40 book over the course of this school year!  
     
     
    How do I support students?
    I will strive to support students in as many ways as possible.  Some ways in which I support students are to provide them with a well-stocked classroom library, many visits to our school library, personalized book recommendations, opportunities to receive book recommendations from classmates, and endless amounts of encouragement and celebration.  I take a positive approach by trying to problem-solve with students when they are struggling with a book or to find a book they will enjoy.  Above all, I dedicate time in class, every day, for reading.  I also have frequent conversations with students about how to "steal" reading time whenever they can: while waiting for a ferry or a parent at the grocery store, before dance lessons or sports practice, during homeroom, etc.
     
     
    Genre Requirements:
    I expect all students to read books from all nine genres of literature: traditional literature (folktales, fairy tales, myths, legends, tall tales, or one of the classics), poetry, informational, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, realistic fiction, and biography/autobiography/memoir.   The actual requirements are on the handout attached below:
     
    Genre Requirements: Genre Requirements
     
     
    Assessment:
    Students will be assessed in a variety of ways.  Books read are listed on a special form.  Students write me letters about the books they are reading.  I will teach lessons on elements and themes in literature throughout the year and students will use the book they are reading to explore these topics.  Additionally, students will be asked to create short book reviews and commercials.  On a daily basis, I will be observing and assessing.  Finally, students will complete a self-assessment of their reading progress near the end of each nine-week grading period.  Whenever possible, I meet to have short, informal and longer, formal conversations and conferences with students about their reading, where they can tell me about the book they are reading and/or about their progress toward their reading goal.
     
     
    The foundation for this program:
    I was inspired to implement this reading program after reading, rereading and researching the work of Donalyn Miller, a reading guru and sixth grade teacher. In particular, two books written by Donalyn Miller have provided me with much of my framework and inspiration: The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child and Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits.
     
    I have also implemented a successful Reading Workshop in the past based on the work of Lucy McCormick Calkins and Nancie Atwell. This has greatly informed my current work with students and the design of this reading program.
     
     
    Parent and Guardian Support:
    For many good reasons, I am currently not officially requiring students to read at home.  I do encourage students to do so.  Of course, you may decide that you would like to implement some new routines in your home.  Perhaps you might explain that your son or daughter must read for 20-30 minutes each school night before he/she is able to have access to screen-time (phone, ipad, computer, television, video games...) or 45-60 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays?  Of course, these decisions are to be made by each family, certainly not by me.  I will list below a few ideas for how you might support or encourage your son or daughter to read.  These are simply a list of ideas with no expectations or requirements attached.
     
    • Ask your student about the book he/she is reading: a favorite scene, describe a character they like or dislike, something exciting, interesting, surprising
    • Visit your public library and perhaps even ask your student if he/she would like help finding a book or books of interest
    • Ask your student to read you a favorite scene from the book he/she is reading
    • Read the same book your student is reading so that you can talk about it with him or her.  Have a conversation as a fellow reader, rather than as someone assessing their reading.
    • Read at the same time your student is reading.
    • Ask your student how their progress is going on their reading goal (of 40 books).  Be positive, non-judgmental and empathetic.  If he/she is struggling, ask why and ask if he/she would like some help problem-solving.
    • If you are concerned about your student's reading progress, contact me by phone or email. We can even meet in person.  I am here to help.  
    • If you are concerned that your son or daughter is being dishonest about his or her reading, contact me to share your concerns.  I'll investigate further and we can work together to both provide support and hold your student accountable.
    • I urge you to celebrate accomplishments. Maybe even buy your student a new book of their choice. However, I strongly discourage you from creating a formal incentive program such as paying your student for each book read or having a "prize" awarded for every ten books.  Here is the rationale behind my recommendation - I want students to read because reading is wonderful, because they love it.  I want reading to be its own reward.  If we tell students they can earn an external reward for reading, it can give students the message that reading in and of itself does not have value.  
     
    What other reading will students be engaged in?
    Students will read from our social studies textbooks.  This will be an opportunity for me to teach valuable, effective reading strategies for reading informational texts such as that found in textbooks.  Students will be required to read classroom books that I just could not let go of this year.  These titles are: Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna an autobiography by Joseph Lemasolai, and Looking Like the Enemy an autobiography written by a former resident of Vashon, Mary Matsuda Gruenwald. Reading primary and secondary source documents associated with our various unit studies in social studies and high quality data-bases will be required, as well as African and Medieval Folktales and well-written narrative, expository, and persuasive essays.
     
     
    What other questions do you have?
    I encourage you to email me with any questions, celebrations and concerns.  I will make an effort to continue to add information about our reading program to this page and to update the list of ways you can support students at home.
    rblankenship@vashonsd.org
    (206) 463-8608