Be Like April…Finding Time To Read

Great readers are not born but are made.   With all of the standards, curriculum, test prep and interruptions found in a normal high school week, there is not enough time to do everything.  What has happened in the past is time for just reading has disappeared only to be replaced with something else.

“Common Sense Media in 2014 shared some startling statistics. It showed that while 53 percent of 9-year-olds read for fun every day, by the time they reach 17, only 19 percent of students read by choice daily”  (Betts,

19 percent?  In my classes of 30, that means only 6 students actually read daily.  Times that by 7 classes a day, 42 out of 150 students actually read each day.    And 108 don’t.

April, an 11 year old girl, shares her thoughts on why we need to read.    She explains the impact of books and independent reading.


The Power of Reading

I like to end my units with a low stress read around where students can select from a menu of texts related to the unit that they can read.  Texts differ in complexity and are a mix of informational, persuasive and narrative.  Often, we don’t actually DO anything with them but just read.  Hopefully they find something that sparks their interest and they will read more on that literary period or author for pleasure after we’re done the unit.  Building in this time to just read is important and helps me continue to expose students to a wealth of texts with varying complexity.  I want to continue to build their capacity for reading harder and more complex text by using this approach.

For my Gothic read around I have some super creepy stories that I’m sure would spark their interest and for most classes, they have but interestingly, most of my students are choosing to read their SSR novel for some if not all of class.

I started a list of reasons from the kiddos as to why they want to read the same text for 45 uninterrupted minutes and was intrigued by the responses.  Not surprisingly, I got a lot of blank stares when I asked students how many read at home each night.

I never get time to read at home

I have to work after school so I don’t have time to read

I have practice after school, then homework, then bed time so who has time to read

All of these answers have a common theme:  no time to read.  Our students are so overbooked that they do not have time to decompress with a good book.  How sad!

While I sometimes question whether I’m using my time wisely by doing read around days, when I hear responses such as this, I truly believe that giving students to read will help build a generation of readers.  At a minimum, hopefully hooking a student here or there in a book will possibly move one of the 81% into the 19% group that are regular readers.  We should all be like April.

Other ways to build regular readers:

  • Talk about what you are reading
  • Have books available be it in your class or school library
  • Host a book club
  • Schedule library time
  • Give them time


WVCTE wants you to contribute to the conversation.  What are you doing this year in your American Literature classroom?  Leave us a comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!

Cheryl Stahle is a contributing blogger for WVCTE.  She teaches at Parkersburg High School and is the Co-Director of the Central West Virginia Writing Project based out of Marshall University and is the Vice President of the Greater Kanawha Valley Reading Council.  She is a not so regular tweeter @msstahleclass but you can find her on Instagram at @stahlecheryl.  Cheryl presents professional development at local and state conferences throughout the year—make sure to stop by and introduce yourself!  Besides teaching American Literature, her other classroom goal is to teach 1970s classic rock to her students.  This year, Cheryl is working on her Superintendent certification….more to come on this.

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