Monthly Archives: December 2014

Helping Our Students Love Reading


We know that reading is key and that time spent reading is the top indicator of student success at school. We tell parents this, and they agree too. But then they ask, “How can I help my kid like to read?”

Without some forethought, this can be hard to answer on the spot. Here are five recommendations teachers can make to parents who want to help their learn to love reading.

1. Make sure the child sees parents reading at home. – Words are powerful, but actions are stronger. Parents who tell their child reading is important, but then never read themselves, send conflicting messages to a child. That child then asks, “Well, if reading is so important, why don’t I see Mom and Dad reading?” Make sure that child does.

2. Talk about reading. – Talk about parts you like, parts you don’t like, what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, what you just read, what you’re going to read next, or anything else about books. This discussion could be about the adult’s book and/or (preferably “and”) the child’s book. Again, this sends the message that reading has value and is worth our time to discuss.

3. Visit the library often. – Free books. Totally free. Zero dollars. I guarantee that if a child walks out of a library with a stack of self-selected books, one of them will be open on the car-ride home. It will probably be open later that day as well.

4. Buy books for your child’s room. – I know money can be tight, but new books attract readers. I know a child might have “a whole shelf full of books that haven’t been read yet.” The fact is…that child doesn’t like those books. This is okay. We don’t always like something someone else got for us or something we picked out two years ago. Our tastes change. If money is the issue, used-bookstores and Scholastic book clubs often have books that start at just $1.00. If this is not financially possible, be sure to make extra trips to the library.

5. Limit screen time. – Kids who are allowed to play video games for six straight hours will play video games for six straight hours. They just will. Most sources recommend less than two hours a day, but remember that, in our 21st century classrooms, some of this screen time is spent at school. Encourage parents to decide on a minute-limit for their child’s screen time, and tell successful time limits you have heard about from other parents. I always tell my students’ parents about a success story one parent shared with me after she set a 30-minute evening screen time limit for her child at home.

I’m sure there are many more great ideas out there. Just be sure to think through what you might say to a parent who says a child doesn’t like to read. You’ll be ready with some great ideas.


Students Going Christmas-Crazy?

“Wow…My kids were nuts today!”

We’ve all said it, and we say it much more often around this time of year.

I equate the holiday season in a school to a pot of boiling water with a lid. The pot bubbles and boils, steam trying to escape while the cook tries to keep it on. The energy beneath the lid just continues to build and build.

So, yes, the kids are crazy…but could we be contributing to this problem? Let’s ask ourselves some questions:

(Disclaimer 1 – I’ve done and continue to do many of these.)

(Disclaimer 2 – None of these are bad.)

– Is our classroom decorated for the season?

– Are we changing our classroom schedule around?

– Are we talking about our over-the-break plans?

– Are we changing our schedule for special area classes like P.E., Art, and Music?

– Are we teaching holiday-themed units?

– Are we doing holiday-themed writing?

– Is there Christmas music playing in the room?

– Are we being lax with our classroom procedures?

– Are we wearing holiday clothes?

– Are we sitting at our desk more because there’s not enough time to start anything new?

Again, none of these are bad things, but they certainly could be causing the Christmas-crazies. Students love routines, and when we changes these, we have to be willing to deal with the effect this has on students.

So, should we avoid everything holiday-ish? Not at all. But before we claim, “The kids were wild today,” we might want to ask ourselves what we are doing that might be contributing to this.

And if we decide to just deal with it, that’s okay too.