Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Power of a Reading Community

Years ago, Mary Lee and I started to meet at Panera once a year to chat books. I was always amazed that she was able to read so many books a year. One year, I thought I remembered her saying that she tried to read 26 books a year. I decided that  I would try the same thing. That year, I read 26 books and told Mary Lee what a great goal that had been for me and I thanked her for sharing.  Mary Lee gently told me that I must have misunderstood—that she read 52 books a year that averaged out to one a week.  She had specific goals for the kinds of books she read making sure to fit in a certain amount of adult fiction and professional reads.

These were the years that I started to track my reading life.  I started to jot down books that I’d finished and reflect on my year. I liked to look at the books I read, when I read more/less in the year? Were the patters to my reading?  Was my reading balanced?  I loved the end-of-the year informal tallying I did to celebrate and reflect on my reading year.

Last week when I was cleaning/moving my office I found this scrap of paper. I knew immediately what it was. My first “formal” reading logs. These were the days before Goodreads so I jotted the titles I read in a notebook and then tallied to reflect on my reading life.  I loved the end of the year when I could look back and see what I’d read and set goals for the new year.  My coding tell me books I read each year,  a tally of the kinds of books I read (Children's, Adult Fiction, Nonfiction, Professional, etc.). Another page in the notebook broke the totals down by month.

There is so much to be said for being part of a community.   It pushes you to be better. Just talking to Mary Lee over time and hearing the number of books she read pushed me to set goals for myself and to read more.   And there is so much power in this expanded community that we can now be part of because of social media. Now we are all part of an online community of readers and we follow other readers on Goodreads and Twitter.  Following people like John Schumacher and Donlyn Miller has helped me read more than I ever thought possible. Following people like Teri Lesesne has helped me read more young adult fiction.  Following people like Colby Sharp has helped me stretch the authors I know and read.   My daily reading of the Nerdy Book Club post has helped me start each day thinking about reading and books.  I feel so lucky to have the reading community that I do.

Our reading communities make a difference for us and for our students. I think specifically about our students who don’t see themselves as readers yet.  If they are in a classroom with a teacher who reads and they see classates reading on a daily basis and getting excited about books, chances are they’ll join the community eventually.   They will want to be part of the fun. And they'll build new behaviors, habits and skills because of the community that supports them.


  1. I should probably branch out- I read almost exclusively middle grade books. The YA books are even more depressing, and adult books... No point! You seem to have a much better plan than I do.

  2. Franki,
    Thank you for sharing this message. On a personal level, I didn't enjoy reading, or read without being assigned until I found the social side of reading. As a teacher, I am so hopeful those less enthusiastic readers will indeed come along as they too find the warmth and value of a reading community.


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