I remember early on in my teaching career I didn’t require my students to read a certain number of books per school year, or a certain number of books per genre. I did however, always encouraged my students to read and check out books from the school library. They also had the opportunity to read independently daily. And they were always encouraged to read books of their own choosing.
It wasn’t until I began implementing the reader’s workshop that I began to require my students to read a required number of books for the year.
At the time I was teaching 4th graders and set a requirement of 40 books broken down by genre for the year.
And I have to tell you I had students that were a little disgruntled and moaned about why they had to read so many books. I got comments like I’ll never be able to read that many! But I’d give them a pep talk and tell them that they can do this and encouraging them to do so.
Now I know that some teachers do not subscribe to the belief of requiring a number of books to be read in a school year. But let me share with you what I found to be true as I started requiring my 40 books per year — and let me just say that my reading requirement was one of my non-negotiables.
I found that even my most reluctant reader who may have read only a few books in the past was now reading more than if there were no requirement in place. Additionally, that student was reading a variety of books.
As we progressed week by week my students weren’t all that concerned with the 40 books that were required, and just concentrated on reading. My kids were given ample time Monday through Friday during reader’s workshop to read – which was a minimum of 30 minutes with a book of their own choosing.
I also found when you have high, but reasonable expectations students will rise to the occasion. And if you think about it – if you had no requirement in place, do you honestly think that students would actually read more? I always believed in this statement: “Don’t expect what you don’t inspect.” In other words, if you want to ensure that your class is on track with their reading goals, then you have to inspect the results — Right? For example, how many books are your students currently reading and how they are progressing. Are they achieving your milestones that you’ve set – for one month, 3 months, 6 months, and so on.
Since I began implementing the 40-book requirement I have to say I never had a student ever tell me — well, I’ve read my 40 books now and I’m done. They were congratulated and encouraged to keep going. Even the child that had to be prodded to read may not have achieve our class goal – he/she might have read only 10 books or so but think what would have happened if there had been no requirement.
I have had children go well beyond the 40-book requirement, and a few of my students read over 100 books during the school year! And that was just totally incredible!
Now from time to time I’d have a student say, Mr. Hiles, what if I don’t reach this goal will I be in trouble? Well at that point I would just encourage the child to keep reading and tell him/her that many students have done so before them.
Now I want to address some of the different genres that I had incorporated into my book requirement. Some of these were: chapter books, fiction, biographies, autobiography, fantasy, non-fiction, informational text, poetry, memoires and book choice category.
In this way my students were exposed to a wide variety of reading material that otherwise they would’ve missed out on. Also, another big plus in having an extensive range of genres is the fact that the teacher can tailor instruction in accordance with your district’s learning objectives and state standards.
Lastly, I think having a book/genre requirement is a positive thing – despite some student discontent at the beginning. But let me tell you it will pay off in a big way.
Please note that I set up this requirement for 4th graders, but when I taught 5th grade, the requirement was 50 books. So, my advice would be 10 books per grade level – minimum. Example 1st graders 10 books, 2nd graders 20 books, 3rd graders 30 books, and so on. But be flexible nothing is set in stone!
Ultimately, in the end imagine you will have opened up a whole new world for your students and by doing so foster a love for reading.