Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Reading Zone

The Reading Zone:How to help kids become skilled, passionate, habitual and critical readers is the title of a book by Maine school teacher and award winner, Nancie Atwell. The Zone is a time both at school and at home when children are allowed to loose themselves in books of their own choosing. Book lovers will recognise this concept. My children tell me that they can say almost anything to me while I'm reading and I will agree-except that I have become a bit wiser about this over the years!

Image result for the reading zone by nancie atwell
In Nancie Atwell's school, the children have twenty minutes each day in the Reading Zone and another half an hour of reading as homework. Why? Apparently, educational outcomes are correlated with the time spent reading for pleasure each day. This link has details of the research. 

Often schools set reading books but Atwell is strongly in favour of letting children choose from a large classroom library. She spends time researching children's literature and trying to match purchases to the personalities and interests of the children in her class. The reading lesson begins with book talks when either teacher or pupils present books that they would recommend. Books are divided into three categories which vary according to the pupil: Holiday, Just right and Challenge. I think that this categorisation is something that most of us can immediately fit to our own reading.

The book contains a helpful section about struggling readers of various types; the type of books which are most likely to appeal and the use of audiobooks with the text to read along. The book was written before the advent of Kindle Fire with immersion reading but the concept is the same. 

Probably the part that I found most useful was about writing about books. Atwell's pupils are encouraged to do this as letters but only once the book is completed and not a letter per book. She gives examples of the letters and her replies. She maintains that the common practice of reading a few chapters and having to write formally about a book will destroy interest. 

 Whilst there are books, genres and authors recommended that I would not choose, the basic concept is something that can readily be extrapolated to the home. Our quiet reading time, after lunch, has gone into abeyance and reading this book has encouraged me to restart this. Of course, I will need to read alongside the children but that isn't exactly a hardship! It has also reminded me to ask the children to keep records of the books they read, and of books they want to read. It is also an encouragement to read children's books so that I can recommend and discuss them with the children.


Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own reading. The views are my own.

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  1. I'm the same. I nod merrily away whilst reading, not truly listening to what is being asked!