To instill a love of reading is the longest lasting gift a teacher can give students. Those who love to read remain curious and engaged lifelong learners. One way to develop this love and also the habit of regular reading is by including D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read aka Sustained Silent Reading) in the classroom routine.
D.E.A.R. is a time that is meant to nurture a love of reading and the written word and as such, choice of what to read is of utmost importance. Children should be encouraged to read from any genre (yes comics and graphic novels are perfectly acceptable) and even at a lower reading level, if they wish. The idea is not to use D.E.A.R. to improve a child’s reading level or challenge them; the idea is that students enjoy what they read, look forward to reading and get in the habit of reading!
D.E.A.R. is the practice of pleasure reading.
Five Things That Make The D.E.A.R. Habit a Success
- Choice - Remember students read what they like! Reading is empowering and having choice of what to read only adds to that sense. During the drop everything and read period all genres or formats should be welcomed. The first step to addressing this is to ensure that the school has a school library full of quality material that is properly staffed. Teachers can then use school library and other materials to create a comprehensive classroom library that is well stocked with reading materials, including newspapers, magazines, leveled books, displays of student work, environmental print, resource books, school computers and software to support a reading program. Providing at least 15 books per pupil is considered optimal for students to have a choice.
- Sharing - Sharing gives students a chance to exchange suggestions, ask questions and find new things to read. Make time for students to share what they are reading with their classmates. Take a minute or two at the beginning or end of each session to let students share with their neighbor or perhaps have more formal book circles once every week or so that last for the entire period. Another way to facilitate sharing is by simply walking around and asking “out loud” questions about a book that is being read by one of the students.
- Exposure - Keeping a wide variety of books and other reading materials for students to choose from allows them to discover genres and formats that they otherwise may never have considered or thought they would enjoy. Having a wide selection of books and other materials that the students may not pick up on their own is a good way to pique curiosity about authors, genres and formats that students may have preconceived notions about or be unfamiliar with. It’s also a good way to encourage new lines of thoughts or pose thought provoking questions. And yes, if the titles are selected with thought, students will try new things.
- Read aloud - Share favorite stories, poems, or even newspaper or magazine articles that are interesting with the class. Reading out loud is another great way to expose students to a wide variety of genres and writing styles. Use reading selections to spark conversations not only about the content and themes found in the writing but also other literary devices used by the author. Reading out loud to students also supports the practice of listening skills, which is far too often ignored in the older grades outside of the context of lectures.
- Modeling - As the saying goes, showing is better than telling; so make sure that students see that the teachers engaged in sustained silent reading time as well. Modeling behavior is very important to the success of D.E.A.R. Why expect students to do things teachers aren’t? And just like students, teachers benefit from the time to relax and read something chosen. Introduce even more authors, genres and styles to the classroom by bringing in personal favorites. Surprise your class, bring in that favorite old comic or book of poetry and enjoy!
Big Universe is an amazing resource for programs like D.E.A.R! Big Universe gives teachers and students 24/7 access to a classroom library of thousands of quality books to choose from covering a wide range of genres and full range of reading levels so that everyone can find a "just right" book. Plus, Big Universe makes it easy for students to keep track of and share what they are reading with others.