Well, it is happening. Year 9 and 10 started slowly, not quite believing a) I expected them to read everyday, b) I expected them to choose their own books and read things they really wanted to read, c) there wasn’t a ‘catch’ where they would have to do some kind of ‘assignment’. The first breakthrough came when a year 10 students asked if he could go to the Library because ‘there isn’t really anything I want to read on the shelves here’. The answer was , of course you can and four other students joined in. All four dutifully went off and got themselves a book they really wanted to read! Another 3 in the same class came the next day with books from home. One is working his way through his Dad’s fantasy collection, another is starting a new series by David Eddings, the third is reading the two books he got for Christmas! I could never wait that long to read a book I got for Christmas.
Almost all of Year 9 are ‘in the zone’ during reading time. I still have two students who are super resistant but are at least quiet when we are reading because everyone else is quiet. One Year 9 student has chosen to read only the picture books and graphic novels. I don’t have many graphic novels yet so need to get some pronto. We are just getting to know each other so I am building trust with him and trying to engage him in conversations about the things he likes in each book. I pointed out to him that I had enough picture books that he could easily read a lot of the genres through picture books and graphic novels.
My motto of ‘read anytime and anywhere’ is starting to sink in. I’ve noticed kids picking up their reading book when they have finished a task early or someone comes to the door and interrupts me (happens often!). This week Year 9 had to begin the process of logging into their DER laptops, so I had one lesson where 2/3rds of the class were at the Library getting that done. The rest of the class had a choice of reading, playing a game on the whiteboard or doing a fun writing activity. They chose reading. (silent cheering from Mrs Tiernan).
I also had a lovely ‘critical’ conversation from a girl who, up until now, has seemed uninterested in the subject and not at all engaged. She had just finished a Michael Pryor book and when I asked her what she thought of it she said it was OK. When prompted further she admitted that it was a ‘bit boring’. I reminded her she didn’t have to finish a book if she wasn’t enjoying it. Her response was ‘I always finish books I start’. I tend to do this too so we talked about why. She then spontaneously said she didn’t enjoy the book as much as she usually enjoyed ‘fantasy’ books because she didn’t feel the writer really engaged her in the imaginary world, which was something she expected from a fantasy book, so that led to a bit more discussion about expectations and best books.
I also responded to Allen and Unwin’s offer of a free book if I review it. I chose Margo Lanagan’s Seahearts. I found the book difficult at first, even though I am quite used to multiple narrators. There is something about the timing that I found hard to get my head around. But the writing itself is beautiful. So lyrical and the descriptions evoke both mood and image, using the senses skilfully to engage the reader. I have two students who are keen to read it, having just read Black Juice. I plan to get them to help write the review.
It is starting slowly and I confess to being a little disappointed at the seeming lack of response. I realised in the last week it wasn’t lack of response but more a ‘wait and see’ approach from the kids. They are still getting to know me as a teacher instead of ‘head teacher’ so I will continue to be patient.