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Cultivating reading enjoyment: A teacher inquiry project


Kathy Gyori. Sunjum Jhaj photos.

By Kathy Gyori (she/her), teacher-librarian, Surrey

 

Outside of the library learning commons, the concept of reading for pleasure is frequently disregarded in education, relegated to a domain considered academically insignificant. The dominant educational norms, particularly in Euro-Western practices, cast a disparaging light on the idea of “reading for fun.” Personally, I grapple with my own internalized biases that downplay its significance. At the same time, as a teacher-librarian, fostering a love for reading stands at the core of my professional aspirations. I also believe that, on some level, most educators acknowledge that cultivating reading enjoyment for their students is vital for lifelong learning. The challenge lies in the inherent difficulty of quantifying and substantiating its meaningful impact within our existing educational structure. I am grateful that the BCTF Teacher Inquiry Program is giving me the time, space, and collegiality to shine a light of distinction on reading enjoyment.

 

I recall hearing someone nonchalantly say during a library book exchange, “Don’t worry about your book choice today; you can just choose something for fun.” My internal reaction was one of dismay. Contrary to the notion that selecting a book for pleasure is a frivolous act, I believe it demands significant and deliberate consideration. Students who contemplate and understand their reading identities acquire a multitude of valuable skills. Reading for enjoyment is a nuanced journey, filled with insightful discoveries and self-realizations. Notably, the correlation between reading enjoyment and impactful outcomes is striking. An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report,(1) drawing on results from the Programme for International Student Assessment, underscores that reading enjoyment surpasses family socio-economic status in its influence on children’s educational success. Additionally, when students read for pleasure, it also affects their mental health, improving their emotional and social well-being.(2) Why dedicate substantial resources and instructional time to teach students how to read, if we don’t value whether they continue reading by choice?


A tool to help students choose their reading.

The challenge, however, lies in the realization that we cannot mandate or instruct students to derive pleasure from reading. As teacher-librarians, our responsibility extends to sharing our passion for reading, curating diverse book collections, and critically evaluating systems to positively affect students. I also firmly believe that children often perceive the importance of activities based on the cues they receive from their teachers. When teachers genuinely cultivate a shared enthusiasm for reading and express a sincere interest in their students’ literary choices, it creates an environment where the joy of reading can truly thrive. Although it sounds odd, taking reading for pleasure seriously in the classroom yields remarkable outcomes.

 

As a participant in the Teacher Inquiry Program for the first time, I am excited by the prospect of collaborating with my fellow teacher-librarians who share similar passions and questions. Driven by a spirit of inquiry, this initiative also allows me to explore my curiosity on how I can enhance my students’ reading enjoyment, refine my teaching practices, and challenge existing educational structures. Through the Teacher Inquiry Program, I can critically assess our book collection and its structures using reflective questioning and action research. Questions such as, “How can I decentre Western educational norms?” “How can I diminish my role as the gatekeeper and instead empower students?” and “In what ways will removing the Dewey Classification System enhance accessibility for my students?” guide this transformative exploration.

 

My focus inquiry question is, “To what extent might the implementation of genre classification in the fiction novel section of the A.H.P. Matthew Library Learning Commons enhance the reading enjoyment and accessibility of intermediate students?”

 

Inspired by the achievements of my colleagues in the Surrey School District who have embraced genre classification, I am motivated to investigate ways to empower my students to choose books that truly captivate and resonate with them. Additionally, I aspire to foster a stronger connection between my students and their reading identities by facilitating an exploration of specific fictional genres. I hope to create a space where my intermediate students can reach their hand out and connect to a story they can’t put down. As Steven Wolk reminds us, “While a nation of workers requires a country that can read, a democracy requires people that do read, read widely, and think and act in response to their reading.”(3) Reading for pleasure is critical and needs to be acknowledged in education.

 

1 Irwin Kirsh, et. al., “Reading for Change: Performance and Engagement Across Countries,” Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2002.

2 S. Yun-Jun, et. al., “Early-initiated childhood reading for pleasure: associations with better cognitive performance, mental well-being and brain structure in young adolescence,” Psychological Medicine, Cambridge University Press, 2023.

3 Steven Wolk, “Reading for a Better World: Teaching for Social Responsibility with Young Adult Literature,” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52.8, 2009.

 

What is the Teacher Inquiry Program?

By Lena Palermo (she/her), Victoria

A "starting question" from a Teacher Inquiry Program session. Lena Palermo photo.

Teacher inquiry is an important part of professional development. The BCTF’s Teacher Inquiry Program empowers teachers to pursue inquiry projects by creating collaboration time and facilitated learning opportunities.

 

I have the privilege of being the facilitator for the Surrey teacher-librarians who started their Teacher Inquiry Program journey in December. While the beginning of this process can often feel like walking into the unknown, this group arrived with passion, enthusiasm, and braced for anything. In our initial session, we set our working boundaries, expressed ideas and burning questions, and began our “starting” questions, which will evolve over time through collaborative conversations and facilitation strategies. 

 

As a group, we will have four more sessions to work through the cycle of inquiry. We begin with broad questions that are whittled away over time to something very specific that we collect data on, analyze, and will lead to a change in practice. Although that sounds very straightforward, there are often bumps along the way and switches in both direction and the specific question. Teachers will often work on their own fine-tuned question under a broader, agreed-upon theme. Some may pair up when they see that their question is very similar to another group member. There is no wrong answer to this inquiry. 

 

One thing we do know is that this group would really like to find ways for students across Grades K–12 to find joy in reading. We look forward to sharing the findings and outcomes of this inquiry project in a future edition of Teacher magazine.

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