It is 10:50 am. In the Middle School, students are slowly making their way back to advisories for a quick 30-minute period otherwise known as flex, with iPads tucked neatly into their book piles. Once they settle into advisories, they tap on their Lightsail app and begin to access a variety of different content, from informational texts to fiction to short stories. At the end of this 30 minute period, which occurs three times per week, they are dismissed for lunch. More often than not, a lively discussion will ensue among the group; they are eager to share what they are reading with one another and echoes of discussion can be heard all the way to lunch.
Lightsail is an online, independent reading program that fosters a love of reading while simultaneously accelerating literacy development. Through the use of this app, each student has a library that has been personalized for his or her individual use based on both reading level and interest needs. However, this library isn't fixed; it evolves based on frequent assessments of both student interest and reading level. The program challenges them to develop their fluency and stamina through the use of power texts, while also giving them agency over what they choose to read. In addition, reading also becomes a social acitivity, as they are all reading a variety of texts at any given time and look forward to the opportunity to share what they are reading — as well as their ideas about what they are reading — with one another. Interest, accessibility, and socializing around reading are three key components in helping to foster engaged, enthusiastic, and lifelong readers.
"There are no reluctant readers," states Lisa Von Drasek,
a librarian at Bank Street College of Education in New York, "just kids who haven't found their choice yet." When students are given agency over what they read, they are more likely to develop an authentic and lasting connection to reading. If your child expresses an interest in a particular genre or series, there is no harm in them reading everything that interests them in that genre or the entire series. High interest level, along with accessibility, matters when kids are selecting independent reading books. Pressuring them to read something outside of their interests at that time, especially at home, might backfire and cause them to view reading as a chore.
Accessibility is also an important component of promoting a culture of reading at home. According to Canadian educator and author Regie Routman, "if the book is too difficult, it will lead to frustration; too little of a challenge will lead to boredom." Taking the time to understand where your child is in regard to his or her current reading level will also help you to provide great choices at home that are both accessible and interesting to your child. Connecting with your child's teacher at different points in the year will also help you to gauge where your child is in regards to their reading growth, and support you in tweaking choices that are provided at home. Reading book lists and book reviews together will also encourage your child to identify what they are most interested in and allows you to gauge what is appropriate for their current reading level. Opportunities to read should be regularly provided and a variety of reading materials should be available at home.
According to Lucy Calkins, educator and founder of The Reading and Writing Project at Teachers' College, Columbia University
, "the books that matter in our lives are the books we have discussed." If parents want their children to enjoy reading, the first and most important step
in that journey is to be the model at home. By sharing one's reading experiences, students have an opportunity to access information on a different level. Ask your child about what they are reading in classes as well as independently. Share what you are currently reading with your child by creating space and time at home to promote engagement. By devoting some time to having reading discussions, your children will gain access to and interest in new topics, as well as experience firsthand that reading is an important priority at home.