In the classroom, I spend a lot of time with my students on how they could choose books for independent reading. We go to the library or I set out our classroom library books and then we unpack the “IPICK” method from The Daily Cafe resource by Gail Boushey and Allison Behne. I love their framework for my literacy program and this method helps to give me the language to encourage children to make thoughtful reading choices. The acronym “IPICK” uses friendly language to elicit reflection when selecting books.

I – I choose a book (look it over inside and out)
P – Purpose (why do I want to read this book?)
I – Interest (does this book interest me?)
C – Comprehend (do I understand what I am reading?)
K – Know the words (do I know most of the words?)

I intentionally do a lot of modelling and practice with the students on how to select a book. For example, I show how I might open the book and read the first page to see if I understand the story; we talk a lot about what interests us (genres, topics, etc), and I model how I choose the same authors for my own reading choices; ones I know that I love their style or their genres. I do all of this to try and develop students’ desire to become lifelong readers and to have the skills to choose books that they will be able to feel successful reading.

Lately, I’ve been wondering whether my teaching does create lifelong readers; surely, the logistics of teaching students how to choose a book for themselves must make it easier to make a selection when looking at all of the vast possibilities that the library holds. Then why do I hear from parents the struggle to encourage their teens and pre-teens to read independently outside of school?

Recently, I read an Edutopia article by Kasey Short ( who was wondering the same thing. In this article, she writes that most engaging texts for upper elementary students:

– have the power to show early adolescent readers that they’re not alone in their feelings and circumstances
– provide positive examples for how readers can speak up for themselves and others
– offer understanding of those who are different from them
– provide insight into real-world situations
– serve as a mental health break and escape from the real world

This made sense to me and outlined some of the missing pieces in my thinking. I needed to think about the books that I was highlighting for students in my classroom. I needed to consider modelling my own, I’ll call them ‘emotional’ choices for reading as opposed to focussing on ‘practical’ choices for reading. Not just modelling the mechanics of looking at the first page to see if I could read the words, but thinking about what I think makes a book a ‘page turner’ for me and how that might change depending on my mood or interests. These criteria for engaging texts explain a little more explicitly the Purpose (why do I want to read this book?) and Interest (what do I want to learn about?) for which I was missing the language as a junior or intermediate educator.
As I begin planning for September, I keep these criteria in mind, and consider how to create space for these types of conversations about reading with students. Getting to know them as readers and helping them to reflect on their own identities as readers will be an interesting journey!


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