Every parent wants their child to love reading. Developing strong reading skills builds the foundation for academic success and offers access to endless new worlds and experiences. But how do we encourage children to read when many of them would prefer doing just about anything else (especially over summer vacation)? Below, St. Luke’s Head of Middle School Amber Berry describes how St. Luke’s builds a love of reading into the school’s curriculum.
By Amber Berry, St. Luke’s Head of Middle School
As educators, parents, and professionals, we understand that there is a critical need for more reading. But, it’s often easy to lose sight of that. Growing up, my family didn’t have many books at home, but what we did have was the Westchester Library System. We spent a lot of time visiting the different area libraries, and I could take out 15 books at a time.
In high school, I decided that I had far too much academic work to continue to read for pleasure, and so began my eight-year hiatus, where I only read assigned books. Once I became a teacher, I decided that the best way I could connect with my students was to read what they read. That first school break, I read the entire Twilight series. That’s all I needed to connect back to reading and realize how valuable it is in my life. So what could I do to make sure that my students continued to love reading?
Just as I experienced, students’ reading habits often decline as they age. Many students develop negative feelings about reading, particularly boys and students who are struggling academically. And for students who love to read, there still seem to be things that get in the way.
To better understand how we could help our students here at St. Luke’s, we asked them about their reading habits and learned that a decline in reading was due to three main factors:
- There are other things they would rather be doing (technology plays a significant role in this).
- They aren’t sure how to pick out a book they will like.
- There just isn’t enough time.
Helping to combat these potential obstacles is St. Luke’s Middle School Librarian, Jean Myles. Thanks to Jean and with the help of our teachers and Middle School English Department Chair Kirsten Tobler, St. Luke’s has designed a community experience for Middle School students to engage with books and ignite a love of reading. St. Luke’s encourages teachers to build reading and library time into their curriculum, often leaving time during the day for independent reading. We also designed a library class for our fifth and sixth graders to explore the space, learn how to use the library for research, and discover the perfect book to get lost in. We’re fortunate that the St. Luke’s library is a gorgeous space that is inviting, welcoming, and very well stocked with exactly what our kids want to read. Many teachers report having to repeatedly tell kids to stop reading (!) once the period is over.
Teachers also observe that many students, including those who may normally be a bit more restless, are more focused after reading. There is a calm that descends once the reading begins. It’s beautiful, it’s amazing, and it’s exactly what our students need.
St. Luke’s prepares Middle School students to thrive. Learn more.
St. Luke’s is a private, secular (non-religious) independent school in New Canaan, CT serving grades 5-12. St. Luke’s mission is an exceptional education that inspires a deep love of learning, a strong moral compass, the commitment to serve, and the confidence to lead. St. Luke’s Center for Leadership advances our mission by helping students develop exceptional leadership ability. Learn more.