Recently, Dana and I have been thinking about the ways we nurture excitement for reading in our classrooms. One way I accomplish this is through one of the very first projects I assign, right at the beginning of the year – The Book Poster Project.
Each student works with a book s/he read over the summer. The goal is to create a poster – similar to one students might see advertising an upcoming movie – that might entice other students to read the book they’ve based their work on. These beautiful posters surround my students over the next several weeks. Everywhere they rest their eyes they see the title of a beloved book with a carefully drawn illustration that shows why this is, in the words of my students, “the best book ever!”
I ask my students to write a brief summary of the book that begins with an excerpt from the reading – a passage they feel will compel others to read their book. Students have time to briefly discuss their book with their peers. I never have to worry about my students coming up with ideas for books they might be interested in reading.
Richard Allington, Lucy Calkins, Irene Fountas, and Gay Su Pinnell have written extensively about how students become better readers. This happens when they have choice over what they read, are motivated to read, and are provided with time to read. The Book Poster Project helps with the first two criteria, and then it’s my job to make sure their reading time is secured and sacred.
In my classroom, you can hear a pin drop when it’s time for independent reading. Instead of calling independent reading time DEAR (Drop Everything And Read), I call is SQUIRT (Sustained, Quiet, Uninterrupted, Independent, Reading Time) because it’s more specific to exactly what we all should be doing during this time. My students know that SQUIRT will be on the agenda each day and to be prepared when it’s time. This means visits to the restroom or the water fountain MUST happen before, NEVER during SQUIRT. They are not “looking for a book” during SQUIRT. Simply put, during SQUIRT, we are all SQUIRTing. Period.
My smile is widest during SQUIRT when I peer up from my book to look out at my students who are immersed in a book they love with their gorgeous posters as the backdrop to the most serious work we do.