Have You Heard About the
Reading Workshop

Create a reading workshop environment at home

kid ignoring boring book

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: reading is in crisis. For too many kids, books are losing the fight for attention. Of course, the problem isn't only evident at home; it can be seen at school, too.

So, let's take a look at something teachers are doing that you may want to emulate as a parent as well. It's called Reading Workshop.

The theory is that many kids are turned off by reading in school when they're forced to read some classic that they find either incomprehensible or irrelevant to their lives.

Or both.

I was certainly turned off by Moby Dick. It was dauntingly long and whole chapters were devoted to facts and terminology, rather than plot. My eyes glazed over again and again and I got nothing out of it.

Some kids may have, but I suspect most didn't. As a high school Junior living in suburban Chicago, somehow whaling didn't speak to me!

Teachers are on the front line of the reading crisis

So along comes a new movement/theory called literature circles.

Instead of the traditional approach of the whole class tackling a classic together - reading it at home and then being schooled in its finer points in the classroom - the teacher breaks the class up into smaller groups, each taking on a book geared more toward the interests of that particular set of kids.

Instead of "one size fits all," literature circles provide a few different books to "try on."

Some studies have shown that the lit circle approach keeps kids more involved in reading than the traditional one class-one book approach. And that reading comprehension scores improve a bit too.

Reading Workshop takes choice to its logical extreme

Reading Workshop goes beyond Literature Circles. Students essentially have their choice of books to study. Teachers may exclude books that they consider "trash," but 25 kids in a class might be reading 25 different books.

Obviously, the teacher can't lecture the whole class on each book, but she devotes one on one time to each student to discuss their book. Special time is devoted in class each day to this kind of reading.

And early studies are showing that the reading workshop approach is resulting in much more committed readers!

Teachers rock!

Like with so many things these days, the workshop approach puts new demands on caring teachers.

  • Many teachers have to buy new books for their classrooms out of pocket
  • Many teachers now devote their own free time to acquainting themselves with the various books their students are reading
  • Many teachers continuously search out new books to lure their reluctant readers into the "enthusiastic reader" category!
  • Many teachers have to deflect administrators who are leery of new approaches and concerned that standardized testing scores could be impacted negatively if the kids aren't getting enough Hawthorne or Shakespeare.

But the results speak for themselves. Reading workshop kids are reading more, enjoying it more, and comprehending it more.

Bringing the reading workshop movement home

If you're like most parents, you would love it if your kids spent more time with books and less time with

  • cell phones
  • computers, and
  • video games.

Well, the reading workshop approach tells us that freedom of choice may be the tool that gives books a chance to compete!

So, what can you do?

Well, you could do the research and start buying up books that appeal to kids in your child's age group. You could visit the bookstore (or the used bookstore) together!

If you're willing to budget money for books (I hope you are!), you could hand over responsibility to your children entirely and give them an "Amazon Allowance!" After all, Amazon gift cards

are easy to purchase, and since you're the parent, you can say,

Only for books!

Amazon will even let you use gift cards to buy used books, which means your kids can score a lot of reading for the money. Speaking of Amazon...

Amazon's Kindle gives your kids a chance to download books relatively cheaply and read them while, say, waiting for the bus. Or riding it!

And parents...

You can emulate teachers in another way too. You could show interest in your child's chosen books. Discussing literature can occur at home too!

Books can compete if you give them enough opportunities to

Books might seem like luxuries in this modern economy (they sure can be priced like luxuries), but if you want your child to succeed, a love of reading is more like a necessity.

Our children are expert at finding what they like. The reading workshop movement shows us that if we give them freedom of choice with books, they'll do more reading and become more committed readers. If teachers are willing to spend money on our kids, shouldn't we be too!

The Reading Department.

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