For years, we have aligned our thinking to the research of Allington, Routman, Caulkins, and Clay to support our belief that teachers can develop readers without a barrage of tests, worksheets and book reports. And now, with our reading of Danalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild we are reminded again that students should spend the majority of their class time reading and writing. Miller makes it clear that we must view each student as a reader no matter their reading level. Classroom teachers must create life-long readers by engaging students.
Challenges of Fourth Grade Readers
Keeping this in mind, we have found that our fourth grade readers provide unique challenges and opportunities. Most students in this grade can decode text fairly well, but it is our job to develop the skills required for the amount of reading and the complexity of textbooks they will encounter in the middle grades.
"How many pages do you read a night? I have a challenge for you...Next week we can Skype again. I can see how you did,"6th grade Buddy.
Implementing a reading approach that works for the needs of the students without disrupting their day further was our challenge. What would motivate our students to read more? Could we use older readers as mentors for our younger students? Could older students set goals and challenge readers in the lower grades even though their classrooms were in different buildings? Through trial and error and many conversations we organized “Book Buddies”. We started small by pairing fourth graders with sixth graders based on shared interest. We decided most of the reading would be done independently with the buddies meeting once a week using “google hangouts”. The first event was a short after school “face to face” meeting. Leading the meeting, the sixth graders introduced themselves explaining the things that motivated them as readers. Then the partners spent the rest of the time getting to know each other, deciding on the book they would enjoy reading together and setting goals for the amount of reading to be done in the upcoming week.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, how well did you like the book?" 6th grade Buddy.