I love expert reading teacher Donalyn Miller’s term wild reader, which was introduced in her fantastic book Reading in the Wild. The term is so appealing to me because it emphasizes the fundamental importance of the motivational piece. It makes it obvious that raising lifelong readers is much more than just about skill development — it is about helping kids take reading out of the classroom and into the “wild” — where reading occurs willingly, enthusiastically, not because it is a school requirement but because it is a given part of life that brings pleasure, knowledge, and meaning.
Every study confirms that kids who read the most outperform kids who don’t read. They are the most successful in school and have the most opportunities in life — professional as well as social. However, American schools are not creating wild, lifelong readers. In fact, data show that with each year of education, the number of kids reading for pleasure (beyond school requirements) declines from about 2nd through 12th grade, so that by the time they graduate from high school most U.S. kids are “schooltime” readers who read only when they must. I agree with Donalyn Miller that this is in part due to the fact that American education has tended to focus largely on developing reading skills with little to no attention to nurturing the “wild” habits of lifelong readers. This is hurting our kids.
While doing some online reading, I came upon teacher Deb Frazier’s “wild reader scavenger hunt“. She asks parents to deliberately search for kids reading in the wild — kids who are reading in their natural everyday lives, perhaps at “edge” times (when in transition between activities), wherever and whenever they can sneak in a few extra pages. She is creating a photo collage that shows off kids reading in the wild, and she’s hoping that it will help make wild reading more visible to kids — showing them that wild reading is valued, cool, fun, something to be proud of, something that they want to be part of. Here are a few ways that you can participate in her scavenger hunt:
- Take a picture of your kids “reading in the wild”, and add it to the Wild Readers Padlet at http://padlet.com/debfrazier4/wildreaders
- Show your kids the Wild Readers Padlet, so that they see other kids reading in the wild. Actually tell them about this teacher’s mission, and discuss what it means to “read in the wild”.
- Encourage your kids to read in the wild — naturally and visibly, as part of their summer day, and at “edge” times.
- Send them on the scavenger hunt too! Charge them with the mission of catching others reading in the wild so that they can add their own photos to the project. Can they catch a sibling or a friend reading in the wild? Can they catch YOU reading in the wild too?
- Challenge the kids to see how many different examples of reading in the wild they can find.
- Be a wild reader yourself, and show your kids you reading in the wild. Read eagerly as part of daily life and during “edge” times. Talk lots about what you’re reading, sharing your enthusiasm and your thinking. And share your TBR (To Be Read) lists, so that kids see your ongoing planning and anticipation of books to come.
Whereas the requirements of school and school-year schedules can make it difficult for parents to encourage wild reading , summer is hands-down the best opportunity to nurture the habits and orientation of wild readers. Take advantage of summer by joining this simple scavenger hunt! And spread the word if you can!!