Every time we get within 2 weeks of a grading period (quarter or semester) I start getting really frustrated. Several years ago, the district implemented a silent reading policy for the high school in response to low reading scores on the Iowa Assessments. Since this policy began we have continued to see an increase in our reading scores for 9th -11th-grade students. Sadly many of the students will attempt to fake read during this time period. To help with this, I set a goal of 1000 pages a quarter or 2000 pages for the semester, since we are reading for 30 minutes a class period, this should not be a problem. I remind the students many times throughout the quarter/semester that they need to complete a short book talk with me. These usually last around 3-4 minutes and as long as I am convinced that they have actually read the book, they get the points. I remind them time and time again that they need to complete these book talks when they are finished, that they need the book, and that they will only be allowed to do one book talk during a class period, and finally that I do the book talks on Thursday and Friday’s during class. This semester, I have started requiring them to also record their books on Goodreads. Even with all of this knowledge, and the constant reminders, the students tend to wait until the last week before the grading period ends, they beg to report on more than one book at a time, they insist that I should break my rules about only on Thursday or Fridays and yes, they show up without the book and then try and convince me that the book was around 700-900 pages in length.
How I dream of a day when all of this is not necessary when all students will willing pick up a book and read, just for the pleasure, or to learn something that they are interested in, not because they are forced to read. Yes, I have read such books as Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisper and Reading in the Wild and Penny Kittle’s Book Love. No matter what I try to do at the high school level, so many students are already turned off to reading and will do everything that they can to resist reading. I am not going to give up, I am going to keep talking about reading, keep encouraging my students to read and remember that even if I just get one more student hooked on reading, that progress has been made.