How to make a reading lounge…(part I)

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Steven Layne planted the seed a couple years ago. A group of us Barrett Ranchers went to a reading conference in Sacramento and heard him talk about the importance of developing lifelong readers. Not only did he talk about engaging students in reading books but he captivated an audience full of educators by engaging us in a read-a-loud of one of his own children’s books. After the conference, I got everyone his book, Igniting a Passion for Reading, and we started a small committee to do just that. We named it the “Spark the Fire” committee and our main focus was to come up with fun ideas to get kids excited about reading and books. One of these ideas, the reading lounge, was born from one of our earlier brainstorming sessions.

In Dr. Layne’s book, he talks about the idea of creating reading lounges in schools. It makes sense if we want kids to read more that we get them great books to read and create a space that allows them to engage in books. Dr. Layne warns in his book that there are systemic roadblocks (or excuses) to creating reading lounges in schools. The first roadblock is that there is no extra space. While we didn’t have extra classroom space, we did have shared pod areas that were used for small group work and storage. We have 8 of these pod rooms on campus and each of these connect with three classrooms. Space was not an issue for us. If we didn’t have the pod rooms, we would have looked at the computer lab (which is quickly becoming obsolete with the use of Chromebook carts in the classroom). Here is a photograph of a pod:

img_6407The second roadblock that Dr. Layne warns us about is the excuse of not having any money. In fact, at the reading conference a few years ago, he told every attendee that the principal always has money somewhere. I remember this exact moment because all of my teachers turned back at me with some raised eyebrows! Yes, we have some money but we didn’t have enough. When we make reading a priority, we will find the money.

Our idea was to convert all 8 pod rooms into reading lounges. The vision? The reading lounges would foster literacy, offer a quiet and safe space, create a sense of eagerness and imagination, and associate reading with leisure and pleasure. Each reading lounge would have a theme based on a book or author. One classroom articulated their vision of what their reading lounge would look like based on Aaron Becker’s Journey, Quest, Return trilogy:

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“My students imagined an enchanted space with lanterns, little white lights and a huge magic carpet that they could sit or lay down upon to read.  Painted on the walls would be a red hot air balloon, a beautifully exotic bird with purple feathers and two large trees, each one featuring a magic door at the trunk’s base.  These two magic doors, one being red & one being purple, would symbolize their secret passage into the fantastical world of books!”- Ms. B., 2nd grade teacher

Of course, we needed the furniture, paint, hardware, supplies, and books. Did I mention books? We had some money but not enough money. This is where the community comes in….(to be continued).

 

The Importance of Working Hard

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Dear parents,

This may be shocking to you but you will rarely hear me say to a student, “You are so smart and talented!” What? The principal admits that he doesn’t give praise to students for their intellectual abilities? It’s true. I believe that talent and natural ability are over-rated. Some people may be born with a little talent in some areas but I believe that most success comes from lots of practice and hard work.

In fact, scientific research tells us that most successful people are the hardest workers who have put in at least 10,000 hours of purposeful practice into their craft (see the Malcolm Gladwell’s work). The coach of the NBA basketball team, Oklahoma City Thunder, Scott Brooks, went to my high school. People said that he was too small to play in the NBA but he worked hard and persevered. Legend has it that he would sneak into the East Union High School gym and spend 3-4 hours every night just dribbling the basketball from one end of the court to the other. He dedicated himself to mastering the details. When others said that he couldn’t make it, he worked harder. He made it to the NBA and learned the game inside and out. He studied the game so much that he eventually became a head coach in the NBA. A few years ago, he was voted Coach of the Year in the NBA. He took one of the worst teams and made it one of the best teams. He once said that his teams are good not because they have the most talent but because the players understand what it means to work hard and be dedicated to getting better.

What does this mean to our students? Students need to learn to practice until mastery. From the multiplication facts to the scientific process, students need to put in the time and effort to learn and master these academic concepts. Giving up is not an option. Research shows that students who are praised for working hard and putting forth outstanding effort are more likely to not give up when they are challenged. They are more likely to achieve more as they understand that success comes from working hard, not some talent that they are born with. So parents, the next time your child does well in school, instead of praising them for how smart they are, praise them for their effort and say, “You are such a hard worker! You must have studied and practiced a lot!”

Don H. Vu, Ed.D