Davida Amkraut, Middle School Language Arts Marci Friedman, General Studies, First Grade Donell Newman, General Studies, Fourth Grade Danielle Shainker, Technology

A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to attend the premiere reading conference for educators, The National Council of Teachers of English: Responsibility, Creativity and the Arts of Language. Over the course of three days, we heard from the nation’s leading reading experts, met world-renowned authors and had time to share with and learn from other language arts teachers from around the country. Research is showing that it isn’t important what children read, just that they are reading. Many times, parents will try to stay away from undesirable books or series, but it is important that children be allowed to choose what they want to read. This naturally engages them and encourages the underlying goal of a child reading. Studies show that the more a child reads, the better he or she will perform across the curriculum. At this conference, each one of us learned the value of graphic novels and how to introduce and incorporate them into the classroom. Conference sessions helped us generate ideas to bring into our own classrooms so we can enhance programs and projects that we do with the students. We also discussed the role that technology plays when integrating reading into the classroom. There are many different programs that allow students to express themselves digitally. Digital portfolios and student blogging allows students to write about who they are and what they know. A selfie center is a great assessment tool and reflection for the students. Students can use an iPad and read a story while it is recording. Students can then review the recording and see how they pronounced words, take note of the speed of their reading and make improvements based on these observations. One advantage of reading on a device is the ability to enlarge the text. This is a huge benefit for kids who have ADHD or who are reluctant readers. Enlarging the text eliminates the “extra” text on the page and allows kids to truly focus on one sentence at a time. Our students are digital natives and use technology on a daily basis.The only downside of reading using a tablet is that you can become very distracted by the other capabilities that are available on electronic devices. One of the biggest takeaways was the overall theme that kids need time to read. We don’t allow enough time for kids just to read in the classroom. In a school setting, there is limited time. However, one of the best things we can do for kids at school and at home is give them a comfortable place to read, allow them to choose their own independent reading material and then, give them the time to read. This year, at Schechter, thanks to a generous donor, we created reading corners in many of the classrooms and in the Media Center. Each teacher had the opportunity to order materials and furniture that created a designated and comfortable area for reading. You can encourage your kids to find a comfortable place at home to read, as well. After reading, it’s important that they share with one another what they’ve read–this offers others the opportunity to widen their genre base and try something new. Here are some popular authors and series that students love: Kate Dicamillo has written great books for all age levels Gordon Korman is a wonderful writer for the 4th/5th graders. Dun Gutman is a great “boy” author for 2nd-4th graders. The kids truly enjoy Dork Diaries, Diary of the Wimpy Kid and the Magic Tree House series. A GREAT series for historical fiction is the I Survived series If a child is interested in biographies or history, try the Who Was? and What Was? series All children have stories and stories connect us. We have to let kids read and be proud of WHAT they read. We shouldn’t judge or label readers. The goal is READING!!!! We now have more than 150 new books that we brought back from the conference to add to our classrooms and media center that we know our students will enjoy. We will also be participating in a World Wide Read Aloud Day on Feb. 24. It will coincide with our phenomenal Sveta Grinberg Read for Life program, a multi-week program that will celebrate reading. We can all work together to help instill a lifelong love for reading in our students.

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Rachel Lappen

Rachel is the proud parent of two Schechter students.