Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Teachers' Leisure Reading Habits and Knowledge of Children's Books: Do They Relate to the Teaching Practices of Elementary School Teachers?

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Teachers' Leisure Reading Habits and Knowledge of Children's Books: Do They Relate to the Teaching Practices of Elementary School Teachers?

Article excerpt

Several authors have suggested that a teacher's ability to encourage a disposition to read may be linked to their personal reading habits and views of literacy. This study examined the relationship between elementary school teachers' reading habits, knowledge of children's literature, and their use of literacy best practices in the classroom. One hundred sixty one Kindergarten through fifth grade teachers completed a survey designed to assess literacy instruction practices and leisure reading habits. Teachers who varied in the number of books read and the amount of TV viewed were very similar in their reported use of best literacy practices, but those with more knowledge of children's literature were more likely to use best practice techniques. Several possible reasons for these different findings are discussed.

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"I am an elementary education major and I don't like to read." These alarming words, occasionally heard from teacher candidates at the university, send shivers through the spine of a teacher educator. Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook, contends that while teachers should be exemplary role models of reading for entertainment, "most teachers are seldom seen reading for pleasure" (Trelease, 2006, p. 100). Trelease argues "The teacher (or librarian) who doesn't read much will fail for sure" (Trelease, 2006, p. 102). While this assertion seems plausible, one must question whether the reading habits of the teacher impact pedagogical practices in the classroom.

The role of the teacher in children's reading development has been the subject of increasing scrutiny over the past twenty years. Evidence clearly demonstrates that the teaching of reading requires the application of specialized knowledge, especially for alphabetic languages, instead of merely needing a teacher with commonsense (International Reading Association, 2010; Piasta, Connor, Fishman, & Morrison, 2009). As the understanding of how to instruct reading in terms of decoding and comprehension has increased, more attention has been focused on encouraging voluntary reading among students so they will seek out opportunities to interact with literacy during leisure periods. Several authors have suggested that a teacher's ability to encourage a disposition to read may be linked to their personal views of literacy and their personal reading habits (Applegate & Applegate, 2004; Powell-Brown, 2004). It seems reasonable to hypothesize that teachers who possess more favorable literacy attitudes and behaviors will be more effective in encouraging students to read and in teaching them to read. The present study examined the relationship between elementary school teachers' reading habits and knowledge and their use of literacy best practices in the classroom.

The teacher of reading has two important goals in helping children become literate: 1) development of the ability to read and 2) development of a lifelong disposition to engage in leisure reading (Applegate & Applegate, 2004; Mour, 1977). The educator's role in developing reading skill is indisputable. Teachers must ensure that their pupils can decode written words and subsequently construct meaning from the text. The educator's role in the development of a disposition to read is less clear in terms of curriculum, practice, and accountability. Several authors have questioned whether teachers who do not enjoy reading can successfully nurture reading behaviors in young readers (e.g., Applegate & Applegate, 2004). The reading habits of teachers have long been considered a concern (e.g., Duffey, 1967; Mueller, 1973).

In general, researchers have professed disappointment with the leisure reading habits of teachers. McKool and Gespass (2009) surveyed 65 elementary school teachers. Less than half reported reading for pleasure on a daily basis and 26% reported no time spent for leisure reading. Mour (1977) found that 21% of the students enrolled in a graduate reading course reported reading no books for pleasure during the past six months. …

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