As a learning community, we know that children benefit from reading. Yet, adults too benefit from reading—and we don’t mean more time to yourself when your children are reading! Like the children in our care, we require exposure to new ideas and perspectives; mental stimulation and challenges to our cognitive abilities; windows for cultural fluency and empathy development; and stress relief.
This article highlights some of the ways GDS teachers are promoting the lifelong love of reading as a community norm at the School and provides some incentives for you to get yourself back to books.
Blind Date with a Book
At the High School, librarian Rhona Campbell recently introduced Blind Date with a Book to infuse more mystery and variety into people’s choices this month. The first few books she wrapped (covered except for the barcode) flew off the display in the first few hours. We look forward to hearing, perhaps in the style of Washington Post Magazine’s Date Lab, how the dates went. Was there a spark? A mutual respect but no longing for a second meeting? Both GDS libraries maintain rotating thematic displays throughout the year to hook readers or start important conversations. The High School also keeps a permanent display of books written by alumni authors.
Incentivized Independent Reading in 6th Grade
During their summer professional work, the Middle School English teachers and the LMS librarians made strides not only to innovate the curriculum but also to nurture a reading culture. In addition to book talks and book walks—both opportunities to highlight great or relevant books to students—the teachers are piloting a Middle School reading incentive program in 6th grade through which students can earn stickers based on 40 different reading goals. They can choose from among categories like “Read a Book Recommended by an English Teacher” or “Read a Book in a Genre That’s New to Me.”
When students finish a book, they have an informal chat about it with LMS librarian Lisa Fall, who gains insight into what might help her promote future reading on a student-to-student basis.
MS English teachers Zoë Warner, Aarionna Goodman, and Laura Loftus have displayed posters in each classroom to track the broad range of accumulated achievements from their classes. At this stage of the pilot, 6th graders have earned nearly 300 GDS reading stickers, specially designed and printed in the innovation lab.
Theo has enjoyed comic books like Big Nate and some nonfiction about people with physical disabilities. He’s considering giving “books about loss” a try in the future. Julius was proud to be able to recommend a book to a classmate, and Eesha has been making her way through titles from the “books in a series” category.
“I like the way it’s expanded what I’m reading,” Aliana said. “For example, I hadn’t ever read a book by a non-binary author—or at least I didn’t know if I had. I enjoyed reading Pet [by Nigerian author Akwaeke Emezi].” Aliana described the book as realistic fiction but with elements of fantasy, including angels and a mysterious monster.
Hannah noted that she and her classmates have felt encouraged to read a lot—both more often and in greater volume—by the librarians. From the reading incentive program and other efforts to develop a lifelong love of literacy, it appears students are internalizing the key messages. “Reading is good for you,” Hannah said, “especially 6th graders.”
“But You Don’t Have to Take My Word For It!”
Before Blind Date with a Book, Rhona compiled a collection of titles that High School faculty and staff (and some all-school staff) recently selected for their personal reading. Are you in need of a recommendation? Or are you just interested in seeing what some of your favorite teachers like to read? Look no further than What are teachers and staff at the HS reading?
Books by Black Authors
In honor of Black History Month, Lower School teachers are making personal recommendations for life-changing books by Black authors for their colleagues. Lower School instructional coach Azureé Harrison jumpstarted the display of book covers on a whiteboard in the faculty lounge, and they asked teachers to contribute. “No need to add your names, by the way,” Azureé said, “just a visual collection not a contest.”
Is there a book by a Black author that changed your life? Let us know the title and author! No need to add your name. ;-)
Hopper Awards—Coming this Spring!
The Annual GDS Hopper Awards celebrates GDS student-selected best books from three categories. This year, the 5th graders will be giving awards to books in the following three categories: food-focused picture books, Greek mythology, and graphic novel in a series. Over the next several months, Lower and Middle School students will be reading the nominated books in each category (see below) in preparation for voting.
This year, the GDS Hopper Awards will be held on March 2 at 2:00 p.m., in conjunction with Read Across America Day. During that assembly, we will also reveal the winning sticker design from among the 12 student-submitted designs.