When you start a daily self-selected reading program your students will complain–even if you provide a wide selection. Even if you allow them to to select what they read. when the complaints roll in, have faith that they will subside if you stay strong. Here’s what has worked for me:
1) Make this poster an place it prominently in the front of your classroom:
“Picking up word meanings by reading is 10 times faster than intensive vocabulary instruction.”
―Stephen Krashen, The Power of Reading
When the daily whining begins, point your laser pointer at the poster. Make no expression on your face. Do not say a word. Do the same thing every single day. The whiners will give up once they sense that you are serious about this reading stuff.
Why? To show that reading is not just your crazy, sadistic idea. It is based on research in language acquisition. and it works.
2) Read while they are reading. Do not take roll. Do not input grades. Do not walk around the classroom. Do not help the helpless hand raisers with words they don’t know. Did I mention “do not take roll”? I know you need to take roll. Do it later. Do not get caught up on your overdue grading. Do not drink your coffee. Don’t even keep an obvious eye on them. Let them be the ones worried about keeping an eye on you.
Why? Students never see anyone that reads–not parents, not teachers, not the principal, not their peers, not sports stars, and certainly not media stars. You can be that one adult in their lives that actually believes in reading.
3) Hold them accountable lightly, and not all the time. Repeat. Do not hold them accountable for what they have read every time they read. That turns reading into a chore, even for enthusiastic readers.
Occasional checks for understanding, or asking them to write about what they are reading some of the time can help. Many reading proponents argue for eternal zero accountability, but in my classroom accountability has helped.
Why? When you do this, the slackers begin to keep their mouths shut, enthusiastic readers begin to feel proud, and those on the fence begin to go along. It begins to be OK to be smart in your class. It begins to be OK to want to learn. the whiners have controlled the tone in all of their other classes, but they will not in yours, if you have a plan, a procedure and if you stay strong.
Do not give in to their whining. This is the testing phase. Daily complaining has worked with other teachers, but it will not work with you.
Stay strong, my friends.