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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Wyoming Teacher Policy Institute
Eric Kay, Hot Springs Middle School, Thermopolis, WY

READING DAY/READING CIRCLE: WHAT MAKES LIFE-LONG READERS?

Problem  As an English teacher, I feel that students need to have time to free read quality material that interests them. Students are very busy with their other schoolwork, so I want to provide time for them in class to read. For ten years, I have used Reading Day with my 8th graders. We read for at least 45 minutes, silently, every Friday. Students are not permitted to read comic books or catalogs, (I want sentences!) but are permitted to read magazines. We go to the school library on the average of once every two weeks. I NEVER assign what students will read on Fridays, and I do not permit students to use the time as a study hall. This year I taught Freshmen English for the first time. Because of this, I had the same students this year that I taught last year as 8th graders. This has allowed me to take a concentrated look at what my students gained from the program that I've done in the past with the 8th grade. I have worried that my students weren't reading as much as possible and what they were reading wasn't motivating them to become life-long readers--independent readers outside of class.
Research Question Is sacrificing every Friday of the school year for my students to free-read worth it?
Methods  §Questionnaire -- I administered a questionnaire with my students on August 31, 2001, about their views of how Reading Day worked, what they gained from the free-reading program last year, and their reading habits.· 

§Surveys -- I structured in questionnaire-type worksheets four surveys (given on 9/7/01, 10/4/01, 11/9/01, and 12/14/01) that helped students explain and critically explore the material they were reading so that they could discuss it in a large group setting. 

§ Research on reading programs aimed at motivating kids to become life-long learners? 

+DEAR (Drop Everything And Read)
+Teen-Read week 
+Sustained Silent Reading

Findings  § Some student said that Reading Day was too long and boring, but the majority of students did not feel that Reading Day needed more structure.
§ Students brought more books from home than they checked out of the library.
§ Many students read the same book EVERY Friday.
§ Several students read through a "series" of books.
§ Most students were in some extra curricular activity.
§ Most students read BOTH magazines and books
§ To pick a new book, most students either read the summary or picked it by its cover.
§ Students enjoyed having the time to just read and not have assigned class work.
§ Students also enjoyed the opportunity to get new books.
§ Popular books and subjects seemed to reflect what was going on in our culture (i.e. Tolkien and Harry Potter movies and the War on Terrorism were reflected in popular reading materials)
Policy Recommendations  Since Reading Day/Reading Circle is a reading program that I implement in my classroom, I have policy recommendations aimed at improving instruction and student learning in my classroom.· 

+Require students to regularly choose new books to read.
+Split sharing time with Reading Circle; half speak one week, the rest the next.
+Read more often than just Fridays, but for shorter amounts (i.e. Tues/Thursday for 25 minutes a day).

My data will also be useful in changes outside my classroom, in these areas:

+Useful for librarians in choosing new reading materials;
+Use current "pop culture" events to promote books and reading (i.e. current movies); and
+Proof of reading standards.

 

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