When Twitter connections selected Reading in the Wild (Donalyn Miller) as this year's #cyberPD book study, I found myself grateful for the chance to go back to the treasure trove and reread parts of the book alongside so many others. For more on the #cyberPD project, visit Reflect & Refine.
In the last few years, I've done a lot of work to revitalize literacy instruction in my classroom, mainly with a priority to cultivate community. I've observed the increased strength and independence in my readers each year that is all the evidence I need that my shifts are for the better. Community is critical and must be nurtured and developed before the truest value of literacy--what comes from sharing with others--can be uncovered.
But, while that word "community" has received a lot of my attention, I hadn't really set it down next to the word "network" and considered what might set one apart from the other. Are they really the same?
My reflection began. You claim to be a wild reader? A lead reader? Do you have a reading network? And how did you find it or build it? Who is it? What sites or resources do you depend on?
I started a list. And I have to admit, I was surprised with the truth it revealed and I have to face. Even though I occasionally get caught revealing my inner-nerd in book talk with a few close colleagues, most of my people, sites, and resources are teachers and/or readers outside of my face-to-face circles. That is to say: I do most of my reading networking online. From Goodreads to Twitter, emails from publishing groups/sellers to authors' websites and countless hashtags, most of my network is outside a 50-mile radius.
Naturally, this led to reflecting in my other role. So--"teacher of reading"--how ARE you going to help foster a reading network with next year's students?
For my own sake, I have decided to interpret "network" as an extension, reaching out beyond the classroom. The reading community interactions--student to student and student to teacher--are a subset of the students' network, but to me, "network" implies a broader connection, beyond the classroom's four walls.
At the end of my list making and scrawl, I am walking away with three main ideas for expanding students' reading networks this fall:
1. Family. It's time to get real about parent involvement in reading. Maybe that will take some heavily scaffolded event nights or being a broken record about having parents visit us in the classroom, but the word MUST get out that our kids need to see the adults in their lives as readers. They need wide exposure to who reads and the variety of what they read. Donalyn describes an activity she does with students in which they bring in and share favorite read aloud books. My mind is rolling with how this could be tailored for a "get to know you" evening with students and families at the start of the year...
2. Geographically-diverse peers. My students need their horizon broadened. Their local community is small, and they have little opportunity to connect with peers in other places. The Global Read Aloud project will be a wonderful opportunity to facilitate some conversations between my students and others about a common book. (We're going to read One for the Murphys.) Yet, there's no reason to limit the book talk and networking to only October. Maybe this is the year to consider pairing with a "sister classroom." Maybe it's time to modernize the old pen pal routine (see #3).
3. Increased access to technology. The fact is, most of my students do not have access to a computer and/or the internet at home. Our access at school is limited also. However, now is the time to begin to lobby for the rumored laptop carts again. Now is the time to think creatively about scheduling to maximize time with the equipment. It's time to compile a bank of possible sources for collecting and sharing ideas of students' reading recommendations. Edmodo can host our classroom discussions. Eventually I expect to prepare students to maintain their own blogs on KidBlog. What I need to look for now is a site with student-generated book reviews and/or ads, or a safe-search site that will produce a query for book trailers.
How do you foster a reading network for yourself?
How do you foster a reading network for your students?