Books have the potential to stimulate students’ passion for reading and writing and can prepare them to meet the rigorous standards in our schools.
In South Carolina, the profile of a South Carolina graduate, an agreed upon set of skills, knowledge, and characteristics, is the driving force behind many instructional decisions at the classroom level. So, how does the simple act of reading influence the World Class Knowledge and World Class Skills that we expect our students to possess before they leave our classrooms?
Exposure to different literary genres can foster creativity and plant the seed for a lifetime of reading.
Literacy has always been an integral part of my personal life. My journey started with my mother. She was a writer, not so much a reader, but a writer of journals and scrapbooks that documented her thoughts and life’s highlights. She tucked these items away into a cedar chest that would become a treasure chest to me in my childhood. Exploring this chest of treasures was the reading I most enjoyed. Allow students the freedom to explore a multitude of different types of reading and writing. In doing so, they may find a passion for reading that drives their creativity and innovativeness.
Asking readers questions that cause them to reflect on the choices characters make helps to build an ability to solve problems and critically think through real life situations they may face in their own lives.
Stories from my youngest years were simple. In her young, new momma self, my mother purchased Little Golden Books like The Poky Little Puppy to show me. We would start with the pictures, looking at the cover and pointing out little details that if you read too fast you may miss. As she turned each page, she asked questions about what I saw on the page, what did I think would happen next, and so forth. When reading small works of literature, the questions were more about how characters were solving the problems they faced through the progression of the story.
As a young-adult reader the stories grew more complex. To Kill A Mockingbird in my junior year of high school is my first memory of stepping into a world beyond myself through a book. It, along with Of Mice and Men changed reading for me. I was delving into deep themes that crossed controversial subjects. I witnessed how authors made sense of the worlds around them by writing about the things that terrified them, the things that they didn't understand, the things that broke their hearts and their psyche. I could visibly see how writing and reading helps one to make sense of the insensible as I was transported to unfamiliar times, places and situations.
Reading, whether it be fictional stories or informational text unlocked the door to a lifetime of magic for me and it can for your students as well. Donalyn Miller says it best when she states, "Reading changes your life. Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten, taking travelers around the world and through time. Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education. Through characters - the saints and the sinners, real or imagined, reading shows you how to be a better human being."
Open the door to the world class skills that prepare students to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, creators, and innovators. Challenge students to think critically as they read through inquiry-based classroom dialogue and writing assignments. A selection of strategies for purposeful reading, meaningful writing, and productive dialogue can be found in the S2TEM Centers SC Disciplinary Literacy Virtual Library.
Miller, D., & Anderson, J. (2009). The book whisperer: Awakening the inner reader in every child. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Profile of the South Carolina Graduate https://ed.sc.gov/scdoe/assets/File/newsroom/Profile-of-the-South-Carolina-Graduate.pdf.
Shasta Looper serves as a literacy coach at Lakeview and Berea Middle Schools. She is working through Public Education Partners in tandem with Greenville County Schools in the implementation of the instructional component of the grant, On Track Greenville. The instructional component of the grant is based on the S2TEM Centers SC research project, "Inquiring Minds: Reading to Learn and Innovate in Mathematics and Science" (IQMS).