Sunday, September 11, 2011

Growing Lifelong Readers

By Kathryn Trask, Children's Literature Blogger

I have always loved reading. When I was growing up in a small town in New Zealand, in the 1950’s there weren’t that many books available. I was always on the prowl for a book I hadn’t read. At that point in time, we only had a small family lending library that you could only get to by car. Occasionally the family down the road gave me a ride there.

Now, as a teacher, there are endless possibilities for reading material for my students. As a lover of reading, it has always been my mission to connect my students with all the exciting books available for them. One common thread running through my classroom in my thirty-five years of teaching plus, is the desire to have my students love books and reading. Although in saying that, the local Resource Teacher of Literacy, when she heard I was taking a 10-week paid sabbatical in 2012 commented, “Well there’s no need to ask! You will be doing something with ICT.” And she is right; I am going to be exploring digital literacy. I see it as an extension to my love of reading.

Ever since I taught my first class back in the early 1970’s, I have read to my class daily. Occasionally some of the books had to be abandoned, but most were relished by the class. At the beginning of this year I chose to read to them Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea.
My first decision with this book was whether to get it on my Kindle or buy the hardback. Finally, the hardback won, because I know that if a book is successful, many children in the class are going to want to read it for themselves after I have read it to them. With this book, that was certainly the case, and at present is passing from hand to hand.

Because of Mr. Terupt is a book about a classroom of children who have a very wonderful teacher who helps them negotiate the challenges in life. Then one day because of something one of the students does, the whole world swings on its axis for them. The book is told from a number of different viewpoints. The reader gains insight into seven of the students and sees often the same event through their eyes. Along with the students in the book, the reader waits to see what the outcome of the key turning point in the story will be.

My class loved this book; there were always groans when I finished each day. It is rather cleverly written, so that at the end of a chapter, the reader wants to get to the next. I assured my class this was not my fault! Rob Buyea was the man responsible.

At the end of the book, I decided to track down Rob Buyea. He lives on the east coast of America. Through a number of emails, we eventually arranged a time and date and set up a Skype session with him. He graciously agreed to Skype us in what was his mid-evening and was our midday, of the following day! We spent one wonderful hour discussing the book. We were delighted to hear that in 2012 there is a sequel to this book. He read us the first page. Definitely one I will put on pre-order!

When reading to my class I provide them with a variety of books. We have some excellent New Zealand authors, so I generally alternate between our own and overseas authors. This term we are listening to an audio production of Lion Boy by Zizou Corder.
This is the first in a trilogy. I hope that after listening to this one, they will want to read the next two for themselves. The three books are already sitting on the class library shelves.

I have always encouraged the students to read for pleasure and to read books of their own choice. I have been fortunate over the last few years to have avid boy readers. These boys have encouraged others to read by their recommendations. Some of these boys have been hooked into reading in this way.

One such set of books are The Five Ancestors series by Jeff Stone. Other series that are very popular are the Percy Jackson books and The 39 Clues series both by Rick Riordan.

Just recently I have started to use the Daily 5 way of structuring my literacy block. Those who have heard of this will know it comes from The Two Sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. This is a way of structuring the Literacy block so that it frees up the teacher to work with groups and individuals while the students engage in writing, vocabulary work, reading to self, reading to someone and listening. At present, a number of boys are choosing to listen to The Hobbit as part of this. It came as a request from them. As I always want to foster a love of books and reading, I made this happen for them.


  1. Kathryn,
    Your contagious joy and love for literacy comes out in this post. Thank you so much for sharing. My favorite line is, "As I always want to foster a love of books and reading, I made this happen for them." I love that you made it happen for a bunch of boys to sit and listen to The Hobbit together. Beautiful! You inspire me!

    And what a great experience to talk on Skype with Rob Buyea. Wonderful!


  2. Denise
    Thank you for asking me to do this. Yes, if most children leave my class loving books and reading I am happy. I wish I could say all - but that's not the case - yet!
    Skyping with Rob Buyea was a special pleasure. Our accents I think were a little odd to him, when we heard him pronouncing names,as we introduced ourselves we realised how it sounds to another ear! Technology makes so many things more possible to do. As Rob is a teacher himself he was able to engage the students so well.