I recently discovered a great post on Donalyn Miller's blog. Mainly it's about independent reading, and how her classroom's "normal" is centered around books. In light of the state of the public system - low budgets, high expectations - independent reading can seem like a luxury.
I'm glad to say a reading culture in my classroom is my goal, and that I think I'm well on my way to it. After week five of the school year, I've already challenged students to read every day, write thoughtful letters to me based on what they've read, and - what's most important - they're actually doing it!
The writing prompts are intended to support the benchmarks, or indicators, they will be tested on come NCLB testing time. However, my students are also being challenged to think through the issues their books bring up. I'm not sure why, but this has come as somewhat of a surprise to me. I've seen thirteen year old students drawing from the abuse-filled life of David Pelzer - the author of A Child Called "It". Already we're getting at what literature should do for a culture, that is, speak for those who don't usually have a voice; in this way we live many more times over than we would if we did not read.
I can say with all confidence that that sort of thing would not be happening without a consistent chance for my students to read at school every day.
I also have to say, just like Miller does in her post, that I'm so thankful for my administration. They give us the ability to teach the literature we have a passion for, and they support me in the program I've committed to. Another thank you goes out to our school's librarian, she's great about talking up books and their worth. This has been of extreme importance because, unlike Miller, I don't yet have an extensive classroom library, and access to books is an obvious necessity.
Every day we read. That's a "normal" I can commit to.
Check out Donalyn Miller's newest post The New Normal