One of the most powerful ways of creating engaged readers is by being a reading role model for your students. You need to be a reader, and be able to show children how to read and why it is important.
Children’s author and advocate for reading Mem Fox believes teachers who are passionate about reading and children’s books pass that onto their students.
"The passion I am asking for from teachers is a passion beyond the pay cheque. It's a passion for children's books, as well as for their own reading, for if teachers don't love to read, why on earth should children?" Mem Fox
Research in the UK and US suggests many teachers depend on their own childhood reading, their children’s reading, and perennial favourites such as Roald Dahl and Paul Jennings. However, by expanding your knowledge of children’s literature you are better equipped to make suggestions, and discuss books with your students - in the process expanding their knowledge and enjoyment of reading.
“Unless a school is staffed by people who enjoy books and enjoy talking to children about what they read then it is unlikely that they will be very successful in helping children to become readers.” Aidan Chambers
As a reader yourself, consider how you share your reading life as part of your teaching life, how you are a reading role model with your students.
Teachers as readers: Perspectives on the importance of reading in teachers’ classroom and lives (PDF) by Michelle Commeyras et al is an interesting discussion about the way teachers share their reading lives with their students – how they read, what and when they read, and how they share their reading with friends and colleagues - aspects not commonly thought of as part of reading instruction in the classroom.
Reflecting on how they read themselves, the teachers asked themselves, “Is this something I share with my students? Is this something that would be useful for students to know?”
- Do we always finish the book? What are the reasons we abandon or persevere with a book?
- Do we read ahead? Find out the ending to enjoy the book more?
- Who is reading what?
- Who has a reading friend?
- What books make you cry?
- What is reading for pleasure?
- Should I read a really big book?
- Are you a “born-again” reader? What was the book that brought you back to reading?
Teachers as readers:
- let their students see them reading a variety of texts
- talk with students about their reading lives
- talk about how their reading influences their writing
- talk about new vocabulary in their reading and how they go about understanding it
- tell students about the reader relationships they form with students, family, and friends and with fiction and nonfiction characters
- tell students about the questions they have while reading
- tell students how they select something to read, why they sometimes do not finish a text, and why they sometimes reread a text
- talk to students about who influences them as readers—who inspires them
- tell students about troubles they have had with reading
- tell students about the strategies they find helpful as readers
- tell students about what they are learning from reading
- find connections between their reading and their teaching of students
- teach passionately
Taken from the Scottish Book Trust's downloadable pdf, Teachers as Readers (PDF)
Reading role models for boys
In teaching’s female-dominated profession, it is important for boys to see male reading role models too.
- Provide positive male role models. Invite guest readers; encourage fathers to read with sons, be a role model as a teacher within the school.
- Invite male authors and allow students time to interact with them through workshops on reading and writing.
- Fathers or other significant males in a boy’s life, who read and are seen to be readers, are vital.
Be a reading superhero
Be inspired by the My Reading Superhero videos. These animated short episodes celebrate the teachers, librarians and family members who read to and have inspired children to read.
To be a reading role model, (sharing what you are going to read, and what you have read with your students) it’s important you continually add to your knowledge of children’s and young adult (YA) literature. As well as reading fiction, consider non-fiction topics that are likely to appeal to some boys and 'hook' them into reading.
A few suggestions to increase your knowledge of children's literature:
- Set yourself a challenge to increase your children's / YA book knowledge or join an existing challenge such as the Goodreads Reading Challenge.
- Keep a personal or classroom reading log online, eg on Goodreads or LibraryThing.
- Ask your students for recommendations about what they think you should read. It shows you value their reading opinions.
- Ask for recommendations from local public librarians and bookshops.
- Are there expectations of teachers to be readers at your school? Set up a staff book club, promote books and book discussions in the staff rooms, morning tea etc.
- Have library staff and literacy leaders work together to increase staff knowledge of Māori and Pasifika literature, including digital resources. This could form part of your professional learning programme.
- Attend your local school library network meetings with the Services to Schools facilitator. Contact 0800 LibLine (0800 542 5463) for more information.
"If we want students to develop a devotion to reading, we need to show them evidence of our devotion to it.” Lucy McCormick Calkins.
Remember all teachers are teachers of reading - not just English teachers.
- what you will read; genres / authors / series / formats, and
- where you will get your books from - school / public / National Library.
There are a variety of resources, organisations and sites such as www.goodreads.com, which have reviews of children's and YA literature, book lists and ideas to help you decide what to read.
Connect to some blogs and publishers’ sites about children's and YA books such as:
- Jen Robinson's Book Page blog: Why you should read children’s books as an adult and suggests 25 children's books (and series) that adults will enjoy.
- Children’s booklists eg Nancy Keane
- International Reading Association website
- The Children's Literature Web Guide and other children’s literature online resources.
- Check out some of the book awards in New Zealand and overseas to see what is winning critical acclaim.
- Check out the Create Readers Blog for reviews of books and information about events and issues around reading.
Joining reading and literary organisations can help keep you connected and up-to-date with developments in reading and literacy research and literature. Call in to your local library and booksellers, visit publishers’ websites and see what's new on the Booksellers website.
- New Zealand Book Council
- NZ Reading Association
- Reading Rockets
- SLANZA (School Library Association New Zealand Aotearoa)
- TKI Literacy
This is only a handful of the numerous resources available. Save the most useful on your school library site, send out to syndicates or the English Department in your school, and share at staff meetings.
Reading for pleasure and reading widely makes you a great reading role model.