I relaxed for several days in an ashram in India. I scaled Mt. Everest in a dangerous ascent. I explored declining sea life on faded reefs and in the depths of the ocean. I also gazed at famous paintings and scultpures in the Vatican, and I spent an entire week on African safari. I visited with the inventors of the airplane, the Wright brothers. WOW! I did quite a lot! How did I do it?
By reading books, of course!
Some teachers begin the school year by assigning a composition about summer vacation. The task is common because many students have gone someplace, if only for a day, and it is a fairly easy topic for student writing. Most of my students, however, had not gone anywhere. I used these travel statements as a way to introduce the first essay of the year, and as another way to encourage children to read. They could write about places they actually visited, places they might enjoy visiting by browsing through books from the library, or about books they did read during the summer months. I brought my own books into class for display.
I actually had fun spending a few minutes telling them about books that I had enjoyed reading. Little did they know that I was a model for their own one-minute oral book reports to come later in the school year. Research indicates that the most effective motivation for independent reading is when students give short, enthusiastic book reports to their peers.
Many students have busy parents who rarely read, so they need role models who DO read and enjoy it! To become good readers, children, in their own free reading time, must practice the skills we are teaching them.