There is no feeling quite like opening a book and getting lost in the world found in its pages.  Sadly, many K-12 students haven’t had enough successful encounters with books to make that magic happen when they open a book. Independent reading is a major source of reading fluency. It should be little surprise that students at the lowest reading levels face the fewest opportunities in the job market, are the most vulnerable to making poor health choices, and are more likely to fall prey to some aspect of our criminal justice system.

The teachers at Community Health Advocates School (CHAS) on the Augustus F. Hawkins High School campus are working to disrupt that reality for the students they serve.

Over the summer, several educators from CHAS and the Hawkins team participated in a workshop hosted by Kylene Beers, an award-winning educator and the author When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do, focusing on foundational reading and how it can be strengthened in secondary-level classrooms.

To develop a well-balanced foundational literacy program for its students, CHAS and the broader Hawkins faculty are shaping an independent reading program that gives students tools to self-select books that spur reading growth and self-discovery.

Teachers at CHAS are spending a portion of their professional development time this week sharing strategies that help students become better independent readers. They practiced modeling think- aloud strategies to help students make inferences. They browsed through a stack of brand new, high-interest books with a strategy called book pass, which they best described as being “like speed dating, only with books.” Teachers also practiced using a graphic organizer that guides students in building habits of mind to become more powerful readers.

Carving out time during their Advisory periods and content-area classes, teachers plan to share books with students that were important to their own self-discovery. They also plan to make good reading habits more visible by modeling for students what confident readers do when they struggle to make meaning of a text. As part of their literacy approach, the team will be using Accelerated Reader 360, a K-12 reading software program, to help students practice independent reading and develop self-monitoring skills.

Tireless effort and commitment is nothing new at CHAS. Developing a book loving culture in which teachers actively guide students in self-selecting high-interest books is a huge step in helping its students unlock the magic contained in books and develop their own unique paths to self-discovery.

Interested in taking your reading further? Check out our Suggested Reading List.