Schools Full of Readers: Tools for Teachers, Coaches, and Leaders to Support Students

by Mary Howard

On 3/12/20, #G2Great was delighted to welcome authors and friends Evan Robb and Laura Robb into our guest host seat to discuss their wonderful new book, Schools Full of Readers: Tools for Teachers, Coaches, and Leaders to Support Students (2020Benchmark PD Essentials) I feel honored to write this post since Evan and Laura are long-time treasured friends and we have had many spirited conversations about this shared personal passion topic that was the highlight of our chat.

Understanding the inspiration behind a book is a good beginning, so we asked Laura and Evan to respond to this question:

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

Evan and I recognized that for schools to use and invest in wonderful books for independent and instructional reading, teachers have to collaborate with the principal, media specialist, literacy coach, and reading specialist. By working and learning together, we believe schools can fund classroom libraries and books for instructional reading. We want students to have choices, read widely, and find pleasure and enjoyment in reading. Research shows volume in reading enlarges students’ vocabulary and background knowledge and improves comprehension. 

In the opening words of their book, Evan and Laura cut to the chase with a call to action in the form of a promise to their readers: 

Our goal is to provide the information and inspiration you need to bring about a joyous, school-wide culture of reading. (page 3)

Bringing this promise to life requires us to notice roadblocks that may be blurring our view. A joyous, school-wide culture of reading is not the reality for too many children as we see choice reading swept aside as an irrelevant afterthought or in some cases, principals denouncing it as wasted time. For those children, the vision of schools full of readers is relegated to the luck of the proverbial draw as prescribed TO DO lists far removed from our heart quest robs us of precious minutes to bring kids and books together.

Since we must first address roadblocks thwarting our efforts to achieve joyous, school-wide culture of reading in the name of our kids, I’d like to begin by highlighting five major roadblocks standing in our path forward: 

Breaking down our Schools Full of Readers Roadblocks

As we contemplate next steps, Laura and Evan responded to our second question:

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

We want school leaders to foster ongoing professional learning and conversations and develop skilled teachers who can use books to meet the diverse learning needs of their students. We created detailed checklists for teachers, so they can assess where they are with reading, support one another, and self-evaluate as they use the finest books. 

Once we know the roadblocks that deter our efforts to create schools full of readers, we need to turn our thoughts to building a bridge that can lead us to the reader centered schools we desire. Two quotes in the book seem like a good segue to our bridge:

Be creative about transforming your classroom into an oasis of books and the joy they bring. Laura Robb

Growth comes from taking a risk–trying something new, failing, reflecting, and refining instruction. Playing it safe maintains the status quo. Evan Robb

Spurred by our creative efforts to transform our learning spaces into an oasis of joyful reading using our determination to take risks, we can now turn our thoughts to the next step in our journey by exploring five new considerations for building our bridge: 

Building a Bridge of Schools Full of Readers Possibilities

As we come to the close of this post, here is our third question we asked Laura and Evan: 

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind

Volume in reading matters! Research shows that the more students read, the more skill and expertise they develop.  We want to see independent reading of self-selected books at school and books in all subjects that represent the instructional range of learners. All students should have materials they can read and learn from throughout the day.

Final Thoughts From Mary

As I perused our #G2Great chat to prepare for this post, I was energized by the steadfast commitment our educators brought to the schools full of readers spirit Laura and Evan write about so eloquently in their book. The enthusiasm rising from inspired tweets is a reminder that teachers everywhere are honoring this spirit in their respective learning spaces. We know that this celebratory view of reading is not about window dressings with a ‘Look at me” mentality but creating classrooms where our readers can blossom in the company of others.

In closing, I am drawn back to Laura’s words along with three other tweets reflecting that our dedication is not to some readers but to all readers. We know that we will never have a school full of readers until every child has the same promise of leading readerly lives in our classrooms and beyond regardless of what they bring to the learning table. 

… and that gives me great hope that we can truly have Schools Full of Readers! 

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