Grab a Book!

By Senior Director of Professional Development Design Michelle Morris Jones

When’s the last time you were able to grab a great book, of your choice, and just read?  According to the National Council of Teachers of English’s most recent position statement on independent reading each and every student, regardless of grade level, needs time each day to engage with self selected texts independently.   Choice based, independent reading supports reader’s fluency, vocabulary development, stamina, ability to see a variety of perspectives, and COMPREHENSION.  Students who are afforded time to read materials of their choice read more than students who are not given this opportunity. Simply, readers who read become better readers. And better readers generally achieve better academic outcomes than struggling readers.  Yeah, yeah, yeah… everyone knows this and we’ve known it for over 40 years. But with so much content, so many assessments, and so many mandated programs there can be very little time for true independent, choice based reading. What would happen if more adults, teachers, and leaders took the time to establish a daily practice of choice based independent reading in their own lives?  Would independent reading reemerge in classrooms and schools?  

At the PEBC’s Thinking Strategies Institute last week, 108 teachers and leaders participated in daily Readers’ Workshops in which they read an adult trade book of their choice through the lens of analyzing their reader identity and how they made meaning.  Obviously, this wasn’t exactly reading “just” for pleasure; however, for most it was quite pleasurable. Imagine all those educators spread curled up with their books… reading! Now imagine the buzz in the room when they met up with others to talk about their books and what they noticed about themselves as readers.  

So how does this happen?  Well, just like in a classroom, we select texts carefully, ensuring that we represent fiction and nonfiction, novice and experienced authors, award winners and obscure titles,  edgy and provocative texts, sanguine pieces, different perspectives and cultures, and a range of difficulty. Then we kick off the week by presenting two minute book talks on ten titles, the goal is to expose everyone to the nuances that make each book unique.  Our guests select a book that they think will be most engaging for them. And then each day we read and share our impressions, noticings, and experiences with others. Year after year, institute after institute, participant after participant we hear things like, “I can’t remember the last time I read for pleasure, “ or “I have never considered myself a reader of nonfiction before,” or “I can’t wait for the plane ride home so that I can finish my book.” 

So if we know that independent reading creates “strong reading habits and lifelong readers.”  Let’s all grab a great book, take some time to read, and become readers again. AND then let’s create the time and space for our students to become readers who fall in love with reading again!  Ready to get started… Here’s a couple of the hottest choices from this year’s list.

Have you ever considered the intelligence of an octopus?  Did you know that octopuses, yes octopuses, not octopi, are skillful predators who can smell their prey from 30 yards away?  Check out Sy Montgomery’s Soul of an Octopus in which she paints a detailed picture of the beauty and mystery of these incredible mollusks. 

“The tragedy of it all will be unspeakable, that we’ve been fighting for decades to be recognized as a present-tense people, modern and relevant, only to die in the grass wearing feathers.” Are you ready to experience perspective bending?  Have you considered the experience of being an urban native? Tommy Orange’s fast paced and suspenseful novel There, There portrays the lives of 12 urban Native Americans leading up to the big Pow Wow in Oakland, California.  

Source: NCTE, 2019. Statement on Independent Reading


Michelle Morris Jones has worked with PEBC since 2002, supporting teachers, coaches, and leaders, both locally and nationally, in the area of instructional practices that support literacy and understanding across grade levels and content areas. She leads, designs, and co-facilitates a variety of literacy, workshop, and leadership institutes, including the Thinking Strategies Institute, the Foundations of Literacy Institute, the Investigating Thinking Strategies Institute, the Making the Workshop Work Institute, Going Deeper with Coaching, and Impact Facilitation. Join her at an upcoming event!