Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Readers have plans. What's yours?

I am fortunate to live and be an administrator in the Dublin (OH) City Schools, one of Ohio's best school districts.  One of the reasons is being able to attend the Dublin Literacy Conference, which has been held for the last 25 years in February.  The list of keynote speakers has been truly amazing, and has included many renown children's authors, from Mem Fox to the Collier Brothers, as well as experts in literacy.  As the lit conference has evolved, so have I, having participated as a parent (Yes-- there are sessions for parents), as a teacher, and now, as a high school principal.

Each year, several hundred educators from surrounding states, Ohio and Dublin give up a Saturday to learn more about cultivating readers and writers at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels.  The expertise of not only the keynotes, but the teacher-leaders, is truly amazing and I learn practical strategies for increasing literacy expertise every year I attend.  This year I attended with four of my staff members, including one of my assistant principals, as part of our literacy intiative that is a new cross-curricular focus area for us this year.

In particular we were excited to see and hear Penny Kittle, author of Book Love.  Penny is a high school reading teacher in New Hampshire, and we were drawn to gain ideas from a high school practitioner considered to be an expert in enhancing and cultivating readers and writers at the secondary level.

She was mesmerizing.  To see her videos of her interviews with her students speaking about the impact she has had on their reading and writing, and moving from reading zero books in their high school classes to now being prolific readers was impactful.  Penny and her students reinforced the fear and doubt that we are experiencing even in our high-performing high school, that even as we assign students to read a book, they don't ever read it.  With Spark notes, listening to class discussions, and utilizing peers, students today dramatically decrease reading in high school, and Penny presented many ideas for how important it is for us to increase the volume of reading and writing in which students engage.

One of her best insights into readers was that readers have plans.  She went on to explain that readers keep lists of books and that we should encourage students to develop "Next" reading lists.

It sounds obvious, but truly I have never heard it articulated before, and it was so apparent what an important characteristics of readers it is.  I love reading, and I have always loved reading, ever since I received a certificate for reading the most books in my second grade class.  I couldn't believe it-- I was actually good at something.

From that point on I have been hooked.  I love the feel of books, the smell of books, and yes, I have plans.

I have not fully made a transition to ebooks or audio books.  Certainly I use them, especially when I am flying somewhere, but it is not my favorite mode of reading.  And what about my plans, my lists?  My daughter utilizes Goodreads, both for herself and her students.

My plans?  Books stacked in various locales in our home.  Since I love the feel of books in my hands, so I can highlight and page-flag and sit with them in my lap, my plans as a reader is keeping books in various stacks of priorities.  And until Penny Kittle pointed it out, I never even considered I was a reader with plans.  My plans are below.  What are your plans?


  1. My reading plans are lofty! I have way too many books. I think helping students develop their reading plans are crucial. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Mindset and Teaching With Fire are in my book pile, too. I also have Falling in Love with Close Reading and Wonder (my present read-aloud in my 4th grade class) I often see Penny's name and smart comments on Twitter. Thanks for teaching me more about her! I will look for her book, too on your recommendation. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I LOVE Goodreads and tell every book lover I know about it. Plans matter, and everyone needs their own system. Sometimes it's the habits of a reader that we forget to teach but that need teaching. Thanks for bringing that to our attention in this post.

  4. I keep trying to get the hang of Goodreads, but I'm not very faithful about using it. I do have stacks of "reading plans" on every flat surface in my house!


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