reflections on “read a book a week”

So my last post was about me trying Kate Nonesuch’s “Read A Book A Week”–the idea being that students will be more likely to choose appropriate reading materials they can actually get through, if we put that parameter on at least one book they’ve got on the go.

I tried it with my ALFEs (Adult Literacy Fundamental English students), and here is how it went:

First of all, I did a discussion of genres with them and it went really well! After eliciting suggestions of various genre categories and making sure everyone understood what they meant, I gave students 3 post-its each and asked them to rank their top 3 genres, then stick their post-it to the categories I’d written on the board. Our top-rated category was fantasy. Interesting! (Good way to introduce them to the concept of popularity polls, too.)

We then headed over to the library. My students arrived before I did, and I found them already clustered around the “easy reading” shelves, examining and choosing books to look at. Here, graded readers are shelved alongside a selection of YA novels that are at a higher reading level than some of my students can manage, but are very high interest and look like “regular” books. There is also a selection of graphic novels in there. I am a big supporter of shelving the easy readers with YA novels and other high-interest reading materials! It reduces the stigma that can surround the shelves labelled “easy reading.” (Our library staff are already engaged in the process of finding a different name for those shelves that more accurately captures the essence of the books there. Easy readers isn’t quite accurate, and neither is YA. So…I’ll be interested to see what they come up with.)

The book choices went swimmingly. However, I did find I could not feasibly go with a one book a week model, and here’s why: this current group of students is the lowest level I have taught so far in terms of reading level. At the same time, they are not at the point where they can do homework outside the classroom. Adding to these challenges, we have also had our number of classroom hours cut drastically, and unfortunately we now have no time at all for independent silent reading in class if I still want to do reading out loud in class with them. (More later on why I chose reading out loud.)

So I decided to go with with what I thought was the standard lending period for students. It turns out it’s actually 2 weeks, not 3 (oops), so for the next one I will give a 2-week deadline.

Given all this, I was really unsure of how it would work with my low-level learners and much less time in the classroom. However, the results were good: all the students turned in their reports on (or even before!) the due date. Overall, I’m pleased with the results. If I had time to do silent reading with the students every day, or if I had a group of students who were able to work more independently, I would go to one book a week. But until those things change, I think one book every two weeks will have to do.

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