10 Means of Instilling a Love of Books in Students

By Joel Syder

 

Books are one of the world’s oldest communication devices, and people have been enjoying the activity of reading since time immemorial. Yet how to ensure the next generation of bibliophiles? Here are ten top tips for teachers and parents alike to inspire a love of reading in young learners.

Don’t always dictate the books

If you ask almost any adult what they thought of the books they read at school, the answer will nearly always be the same: ‘I hated most of them.’ Indeed, some adults will readily admit they now love a book they hated in school. The point is that we don’t necessarily love now what we loved when we were young, or vice versa, so why should it be adults (through the form of a curriculum) always dictating the books that students should read? Intersperse the mandatory syllabus choices with books that the students themselves recommend – if you remove the prescribed nature of the choices, half the battle is already won.

Share your love

Chances are you love books, so share your passion with your students. Show them how books have inspired you, have made you laugh and have made you cry. And show them how you read, both to relax and to enjoy. Passions can be infectious.

Use audio, visual and technological accompaniments

This is the 21st Century. Students respond to different forms of technology, so use audio books from time to time, and use e-readers too, sometimes even letting them create and share e-books themselves (there are apps for this). Don’t be afraid to show them movies or take them to stage plays made from stunning original books, or book readings even. “Reading shouldn’t really be about more than words on paper, but what’s the harm in using other stimulants if it instills a love of the real thing?” argues Siobhan Gillen, a librarian at Writemyx and Brit student.

Make it social

Reading absolutely does not have to be a solitary activity. Make it a social occasion by reading together, and not just by using the antiquated format of getting students to read aloud in class, ready to be pounced upon for their pronunciation errors. Get students to act out passages while you read aloud, discuss important points in groups, form a book club! There are so many social possibilities around books – let students see that.

Break down stereotypes

Reading is boring. Reading is for geeks. Bookshops are for losers. These are just some of the stereotypes surrounding reading and books, but they could not be further from the truth. Use inspiring role models to show students how books are loved in equal measure by people from all walks of life. Books can be about sports and adventure as much as they can be about politics and business. There are no barriers, and Hemingway was hardly a geek.

Make it relatable

Think about what books and stories can relate directly to the students. Recognize the feelings and frustrations they are experiencing, and select books which can directly speak to them. No medium can be quite as personal as a book, if you choose the right one. Do your research beforehand, and don’t be afraid to let the students dictate from time to time.

Give realistic time limits, and work with what students actually do

When setting reading tasks, be realistic. People read at different speeds, and some may struggle for a multitude of reasons. Don’t punish students for not hitting reading targets, and don’t fail to include those who likewise fall short.

Use short stories

Make it bite-size by using short stories, which can be more motivating to students than a thick tome. Get them to write short stories too to help them appreciate the craft.

“Short stories are a wonderful way of making books accessible. Select a volume of eclectic short stories and get students to read different ones, then share the stories together in class,” recommends Ben Sedgewick, an English teacher at 1Day2write and Nextcoursework.

Let them meet real authors

Motivate your students by introducing them to real authors. Invite these authors to class and let them discuss the inspiration and passion behind their stories, and allow your students to ask questions. Similarly, take them to author appearances at local book shops and events.

Just do it

There’s no substitute for the real thing, so just read. Read in class. Set them interesting activities based on what you are reading. Let them see you read yourself. Surround them with books. Spread the magic.

 

IT specialist Joel Syder is a mobile and user-experience blogger at Academic Brits and Origin Writings. A prominent mover in app creation, Joel’s mission is to help people navigate this fast-paced environment, unearthing their talents along the way. Joel is also a writer and a regular contributor of articles to Phd Kingdom.

 

Why the Tests Must Be Kept Secret

I’ll be giving my third-graders the state test in another week, which means I had to read this year’s testing manual and something called an “Assessment Integrity Guide.” That’s the one that explains how vital it is that the contents of the tests are kept secret. It’s 44 pages of rules, justifications, warnings, and procedures, all with the aim of helping to “establish, develop, and implement a state assessment system that fairly, accurately, and with validity measures Michigan’s content standards.”

Which, as someone who’s given the test many times and knows the reality, is kind of funny, but I’ll get to that later.

Because states want to ensure the validity of the results (or at least, that’s what they claim), they go to great lengths to keep test items from escaping the classroom walls. Ideally, the items are known only to those who designed them and the students who are subjected to them.

That’s a problem.

Right now, the Texas legislature is considering a flurry of legislation introduced in the wake of a Texas Monthly article that reported on a study that found wild inconsistencies in readability levels on STAAR tests, with some passages at least one grade level higher than the grade they were meant to assess. The report echoes findings done by the same researchers in 2012. It’s led to a backlash against the test and questions about its validity, with defenders claiming there’s more to reading than Lexile levels and detractors pointing to the tests’ use in high-stakes decisions such as teacher evaluations and student retention.

There was an easy way to prevent the controversy: release the entire test to the public every year once testing had been completed. Let parents, education officials, and legislators see exactly what we’re asking students to know and be able to do. You can bet it would not have taken seven years to come to a head had the tests been available all along. As it stands in Texas right now, the debate is centered around an analysis done by a couple of researchers rather than the contents of the actual tests. Those remain a secret.

So why don’t states simply release the tests each year? Why not get everything out in the open?

According to the Michigan Assessment Integrity Guide,

“The primary goal of assessment security is to protect the integrity of the assessment and to assure that results are accurate and meaningful. To ensure that trends in achievement results can be calculated across years in order to provide longitudinal data, a certain number of test questions must be repeated from year to year. If any of these questions are made public, the validity of the test may be compromised.”

Color me skeptical.

First, let’s use simple language: States don’t want items out in the public because students, parents, and teachers could cheat, which would artificially inflate test scores. False positives, they might be called.

But states seem far less concerned about false negatives. There are few directives in the Assessment Integrity Guide regarding what must be done if a student decides to distract his entire class during testing (he’s supposed to be redirected and then removed, but there are no consequences for administrators who don’t do so).

There is nothing built into the testing system to prevent students from blazing through the tests as fast as they want by just clicking stuff. If a student’s father died the week before testing, she will not receive an exemption from that year’s test because the state is concerned about the integrity of the results. Technology issues are embarrassing, but no state has ever invalidated its results over them, even when they’re widespread. You can be sure their response would be different if those irregularities resulted in potentially higher scores instead of lower ones.

It's hard to take validity claims seriously when states seem far more concerned with artificially inflated scores but not at all worried about artificially deflated ones. Click To Tweet

Second, the claim that test items can’t be released so longitudinal data can be compared is specious. If you want the most valid longitudinal data, you’d use the exact same test every year, but states don’t do that because they’re afraid of cheating. Also, state tests change with the political winds; in my state, the M-STEP replaced the MEAP and now the M-STEP is on its last legs. There’s also the issue of changing cut scores, which makes it challenging to accurately compare year-to-year data.

If you’re going to keep tests secret, it’s nice to have what seems like a legitimate reason to keep people in the dark, and test validity fits that bill. But since that reason is less than convincing, it’s possible there are other reasons states want the tests shielded from public view. Here are three possibilities.

Money

It costs money to create tests, so one way to spend less is to reuse reading passages and test items. Once items are released, they can’t be used again, so one reason to keep them a secret is to save time and money, something Michigan at least admits (in one sentence) in their lengthy Integrity Assessment Guide (page 5).

But is that a good enough reason? Given how much the results impact students, teachers, schools, and the public’s perception of the education system, it seems legislators should be eager to commit the money necessary to develop a high-quality test each year, while also promoting transparency with the aim of assuring the public that the tests are what they’re purported to be (a valid measure of student learning). The only way to do both is to release the tests in their entirety and create new ones each year.

When states claim they have to keep the tests secret because of validity, what they’re really saying is that they’re keeping the tests secret because they’re cheap.

Or maybe it’s because they’re afraid of what the public will think of their tests.

To Perpetuate the Failure Narrative

Every year around test time, someone calls for legislators to take the test. And they should. So should every parent. If states are going to require schools to rate teachers, and if they’re going to release “report cards” for schools, all with the idea that parents should be informed about their child’s education, then why shouldn’t they also release the tests so that parents can see the tool used to determine the other ratings?

Perhaps it’s because states fear that adults might look at the tests and wonder, “What the hell?”

And if they question the tests, then they might question the results of the tests. If they question the results, then they may start to question the rankings of schools and the ratings of teachers that are based on those results. They might even be skeptical about the whole “American education sucks” thing. And if they question that, well… there are a lot of people who have a lot of power and make a lot of money off the “American education sucks” thing.

In fact, we know this is exactly what happens when adults take the tests, or at least the test items that states do release. From just one of many articles written on the subject:

“The first argument arose over a question about how the first paragraph of the reading selection affected “the plot.” The directions said to choose two answers from six choices. We all agreed on one, but three panelists selected three different choices as the second answer.

All were surprised when others didn’t pick the same response, so they advocated for their answers – attempting to sway consensus to their side. A similar scenario played out in two questions that asked test takers to identify the “best” supporting evidence for a conclusion.

In one case only four choices were given, and we picked three different answers. Then we explained and argued and maybe even raised our voices – it got animated a couple of times – and no one changed answers, though we could see the legitimacy of each other’s reasoning.”

For now, this happens in small pockets with people who have a vested interest in how the state uses the results. Were entire tests released to the public en masse, you’d soon have Facebook challenges called “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grade Texan?” that would result in widespread ridicule of the exams.

If these tests could be googled, or if they showed up on your timeline, there is a real risk that the failure narrative would fall apart. Every time a journalist lazily wrote that “45% of third-graders can’t read,” she’d be met by an avalanche of online editors who would correctly point out that not reaching an arbitrary cut score on a test designed to separate students into four bands of performance is not the same as saying someone can’t read, especially when the things they’re being asked to read are on esoteric topics or written at an inappropriately high grade level.

You’d have English teachers with Master’s degrees explaining how many questions they missed, how the test determined they were “partially proficient”, and how the tests we’re using to determine students’ language skills don’t themselves use proper grammar.

You’d have mathematicians pointing out mistakes on math tests.

You’d have successful people who do poorly realizing that maybe the tests aren’t predictive of life outcomes.

If the general public could actually see the exams, they might realize that the reading tests aren’t actually testing whether students can read at all. Even assuming the tests are on grade-level and the questions are age- appropriate and not deliberately confusing, the tests actually assess whether or not students: 

  1. Care enough to carefully read the texts and try their best to answer the questions.
  2. Know enough about test-taking to successfully navigate the many twists, turns, and traps test makers lay for them.
  3. Have the stamina to try just as hard at the end of the test as at the beginning.
  4. Have background knowledge on the topic they’re reading about.
  5. Can answer complicated questions about what they’ve read.
  6. Whether they’ve had the opportunity to learn the skills being tested, since tests are usually taken before the conclusion of the school year and students may have missed instruction due to attendance.
  7. Can focus in a potentially less-than-ideal testing environment.

I try not to be being conspiratorial, but when there is big money on the side of school choice and those with that money are using it to buy politicians and write legislation that harms public schools, it’s hard not to consider the idea that many in state government have a personal interest in perpetuating the failure narrative and that they see test results as the surest way to do it.

But that only works if the tests yield results that portray schools negatively. And those portrayals only stick if the general public accepts the results as valid.

And that only happens as long as the tests remain locked away and kept from prying eyes. Because as someone who sees these tests every year, I can tell you that you would be appalled. You would question the very thing states claim they’re trying to preserve. And some of you would not surpass the cut score.

 

 

 

What Kids with Low Self-Esteem Say

 

A guest article from Chris, publisher of TeachingWoodwork.com

 

When the children in your class look in the mirror, do you think they like what they see?

What do they think about the world around them?

Do they think they are loved and valued or do they feel judged and inadequate?

It is normal for a youngster to lack confidence at times. However, if a child persistently struggles with feelings of worthlessness and incompetence, then there is a huge problem. They could be dealing with low self-esteem.

Low self-esteem is debilitating to young people. It makes them have a negative image of themselves that is completely removed from reality. They harbor harsh opinions and beliefs about themselves that when they persist long enough, cripple their lives.

Low self-esteem eats away at a child’s happiness. It creates fear and expects failure. Indeed, it can be physically, emotionally and psychologically debilitating.

While some signs of low self-esteem are easy to sport, others could be a bit obscure. However, the language that the youngster uses could be the clearest indication that they are suffering from low self-esteem.

Examples of Things young People say when suffering Low Self-esteem

‘I don’t deserve it.’ ‘I am not worth it.’ ‘I am stupid.’

Shame is a constant small voice at the back of the mind of a child who is dealing with low self-esteem. Shame makes them feel that they are:

  • Not worthy.
  • Not smart enough
  • Not slim enough
  • Not good looking enough
  • Not rich enough

Simply:

  • Not enough!

Shame induces the feeling of worthlessness in young people and crushes their self-esteem because they judge themselves by impossible standards.

‘I am such a loser.’  ‘I always knew I couldn’t do this.’  ‘This is so hopeless.’ ‘I do everything wrong.’ ‘I will never learn.’

Young people with low self-esteem are pessimists at heart. They only see hopelessness, and they are overly critical of themselves. Even before they try something, they already know that they cannot do it. Pessimism will make any young adult perceive a negative outcome when you and pretty much everyone else see it much differently.

Because of low self-esteem, you may also find they constantly make fun of themselves and uses derogatory words when talking about themselves. This is because they believe that other people constantly think about their shortcomings all the time. Hence, they feel it is better to make fun of these drawbacks themselves before the people around them bring them up.

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.  Sorry.

A young person with low self-esteem will apologize for everything. They will almost apologize for breathing. They are always saying sorry. They will apologize for small things, for big things, and for things that are not even remotely their fault.

Someone bumps into them on the street, and they apologize; they sneeze, and they apologize; they don’t have a pen when you request for one, and they apologize…

They genuinely feel that everything that goes wrong is their fault. This is because they have a biased view of themselves. They are entirely unaware of their worth; as such, they only see their shortcomings and not their gifts and talents.

Low self-esteem also makes people believe that it is their responsibility to keep everyone else happy, hence the reason they keep apologizing. Apologizing continually is a way for young people with esteem issues to buy acceptance from the people around them. They fear that if they fail to apologize, other people will think negatively of them.

‘It’s not a big deal.’ ‘I was just lucky.’  ‘It’s God’s blessing.’ ‘I don’t know how it happened.’

Every child at least some point will work their tails off to achieve something:

And yet,

They will not take credit for it, accept praise or compliments. This is a clear sign of low self-esteem. The child has such low self-esteem that the idea that they have achieved something positive, or that they have portrayed a unique skill is unfathomable. It simply doesn’t gel with their negative self-image.

Young people that are grappling with low self-esteem don’t handle compliments well. They will say that they were just lucky or that they were only in the right place at the right time. Indeed, they will believe it. They have, unfortunately, blown their failures out of proportion so much so that it is deeply ingrained in their identity.

Now,

How do the students in your class react to your compliments? Are they proud, pleased and accepting of your praise or do they look uncomfortable and try to dismiss what you say? Do they deflect praise? Do they believe that they deserve to be acknowledged for their achievements?

A well balanced young adult might show modesty when they receive compliments, but if you realize that they genuinely distrust every compliment they are given, a deeper problem is at play.

‘It just happened.’ ‘I just ……’ ‘I only …’

Are there any young people in your classes that are defensive to a fault, believing everyone is out to get them? The moment they hear a ‘no,’ or a ‘but,’ they clam up. A young adult with low self-esteem finds it very hard to hear anything that they perceive as criticism because it reinforces their low opinions of themselves. They are touchy and take even light-hearted conversations to heart. They will strive to defend themselves even when the situation does not call for it.

Low self-esteem makes people hyper-vigilant that they will interpret any phrase, even a compliment, as a reproach. They will immediately begin to make excuses or explain themselves. Unfortunately, they will never grow if they do not learn how to accept constructive criticism.

If you notice that the young adult’s defensiveness is unhealthy, you need to have a discussion with them about criticism. Let them also have the right perspective: that some criticism is well intended to help them improve, while other types of criticism simply reflect poorly on the critic and they are best ignored.

‘Probably.’  ‘Most likely.’ ‘I may be right, but I am not sure.’  ‘I don’t know what to choose ….’ ‘Maybe …’

A child with low self-esteem finds it very difficult to make decisions. For them, it is more convenient to follow other people’s leadership. They find it challenging to speak for themselves or give their opinions. They also continuously question themselves.

Indeed, they would rather not have to make any decision about anything; at all. If they have to make a decision, they stress about it tirelessly, questioning and doubting themselves all the way. They also have a great fear of being wrong; so they instead use uncertain terms to ‘protect’ themselves.

‘I thought differently, but I agree ……’  ‘Everyone thinks so…’ All these phrases indicate someone who fears to express their personal opinion. They would rather agree with the views of a less incompetent person than risk expressing theirs.

Also,

They never argue!

Unfortunately, these young adults will never have an identity since only informed personal opinions make one a personality.

 

We cannot downplay the importance of high self-esteem for young people: having a good sense of self-esteem helps them to try new things, solve problems, take healthy risks and form meaningful relationships.

Our role in all of this

We cannot overemphasize the role of teachers in the formation of healthy self-esteem. Right from when the children are small, making them feel safe, valued and accepted makes them believe in themselves.

As they grow older, as teachers (and parents) keep encouraging them to try new things and utilize their skills, their self-esteem soars. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, self-esteem may come more easily to some children than others. The good news is that even if a particular young person’s self-esteem is low, it can be remedied: with your help.

The problem-solving process starts with identifying the cause of low self-esteem. Once you have determined the cause, rectifying the situation is the easier (and even fun) part.

 

Read More from Chris: How to Build Self-Esteem in Children

 

Christopher teaches woodwork at the high school level and also runs the website TeachingWoodwork.com. He is passionate about helping the people (parents and teachers) around young people. You can see his latest projects and how he builds self-esteem in young people on his website.

 

,

A Lie All Teachers Should Believe

What is the most empowering belief a teacher can have? 

That’s a question I was recently asked. A few answers came quickly to mind:

All students can learn.

I make a difference.

The credit belongs to the man who is in the arena.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I believe the most empowering belief a teacher can have is a lie.

How, you might wonder, can teachers be expected to believe a lie when they know it’s a lie?

The same way we walk around believing all sorts of lies in spite of knowing the truth.

For example, we believe we’re better than others in all sorts of ways, even though our logical brains know how unlikely that is. Researchers have found that we rate ourselves above average on everything from our driving ability to our academic performance to the quality of our personal relationships.

We persist in the belief that more money will make us happier, even though increased happiness has not followed previous pay raises and despite the fact that we’re aware of the research showing the happiest people on the planet do not live in the richest nations and that after about $75,000 per year, money doesn’t increase happiness. 

Many of us still believe in the American Dream, that if you work hard enough you can be anything you want, even though we’re also aware that opportunities aren’t equal and the data show that fewer than 8 out of every 100 kids born into the lowest economic quintile will ever earn enough to place them in the uppermost quintile.

We believe that having children makes us happy. But when Nobel-prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman asked working women in Texas to reconstruct their days and rank each of the activities on a happiness scale, they ranked spending time with their kids about the same as vacuuming. (Source) And then there’s the below graph, which shows how happy we are throughout our lives. It speaks for itself.

So there’s a pretty good precedent when it comes to believing stuff that just isn’t true.

Why do we do it?

I believe it’s because we have a choice between internalizing the truth or the lie, and internalizing the lie is often more likely to improve our circumstances.

There’s research to back up such a belief. Research by Carol Graham (and subsequently confirmed by others) found that individuals who were optimistic about their futures tended to have better health and employment outcomes. Graham writes:

“Those who believe in their futures tend to invest in those futures, while those who are consumed with stress, daily struggles, and a lack of hope, not only have less means to make such investments, but also have much less confidence that they will pay off.”

Read more here: Is The American Dream Really Dead?

The American Dream might be a fantasy, but believing in it makes it more likely you’ll achieve it.

Consider a child who dreams of becoming the next Tom Brady. For that matter, consider a six-year-old Tom Brady. Young Tom, as he was growing up, surely became aware, somewhere along the line, of the long odds of becoming an NFL player. The odds of him becoming an NFL quarterback were even slimmer. The odds of becoming the greatest quarterback of all time were so infinitesimally small that they could legitimately be considered impossible. Had Brady internalized those odds, he would have quit. None of us would know his name. Instead, Brady chose to believe the fantasy that a relatively unathletic mop-headed California kid could grow up to be the greatest signal caller in history.

We believe those lies that have the potential to benefit us. We lie to ourselves to protect our egos, to provide us with a sense of volition, to enable the illusion of control and self-determination.

Which is why the most empowering belief any teacher can have is this:

Everything that happens in my classroom is my responsibility.

Teachers who believe that lie believe that when things go poorly, it’s their fault.

When their students don’t get along, it’s because of the culture they’ve built.

When a routine isn’t followed, it’s on them.

When students don’t learn, it’s because they didn’t teach well enough.

Everything that happens in their classroom is their responsibility.

It’s a lie, as easily disproven as the American Dream.

In truth, things go poorly for many reasons outside the control of the teacher. Students sometimes act like jerks because all people sometimes act like jerks. Routines don’t get followed because humans are forgetful and easily distracted. Sometimes a student doesn’t learn because she hasn’t eaten, or he broke up with his boyfriend the night before, or she didn’t get any sleep because her baby sister cried all night, or because he just doesn’t give a damn about the Reconstruction Era (and really, can you blame him?).

But just because it isn’t true doesn’t mean you shouldn’t believe it. Like the American Dream, you’ll do better if you buy the lie.

Believing that everything that happens in your room is your responsibility makes you a better teacher, just like equating more money with greater happiness makes you a better American (can you imagine what would happen to our economy if everyone actually acted on the fact that more money doesn’t make us happier?)

Believing the lie makes you a better teacher because it compels you to try to solve problems. By attempting to solve problems, you might actually solve some of them. Things will improve for the simple reason that you believe you can improve things.

The Other Side of the Coin

The problem, of course, is the same as the lies about wealth, parenthood, and the American Dream. The lie, while it benefits each of us to believe it and act accordingly, can be used by others to harm us.

If the American Dream is possible, then people born into challenging circumstances have no one to blame but themselves for not making it.

If we believe that wealth ought to make us happier, then we assume there’s something wrong with wealthy people who are miserable.

If we believe that parenthood is the best thing that can happen to a person, then postpartum depression becomes an existential threat rather than a rational response.

 

Teachers should believe the lie that everything that happens in their classrooms is their responsibility. Such a belief will make them better teachers.

But the rest of us should show more understanding and recognize the truth: There are a number of things teachers can’t control, and failures in their classroom are as likely a result as those things as they are anything the teacher has or hasn’t done.

 

The Teacher in the Classroom

I rewrote Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” for teachers because I find it inspiring and increasingly relevant as teachers come under continual assault from those courageous enough to do the job.

Male version:

 

Female version: