Academic journal article Reading Horizons

Inviting Teacher Candidates into Book Talks: Supporting a Culture of Lifelong Reading

Academic journal article Reading Horizons

Inviting Teacher Candidates into Book Talks: Supporting a Culture of Lifelong Reading

Article excerpt


This article describes our collaborative inquiry, three teacher educators/researchers of literacy from different institutions who shared a concern about how few teacher candidates in our programs neither viewed themselves as readers nor possessed a love of reading, qualities we view as key to supporting all children as lifelong readers, writers, and communicators. In this paper, we share how we took action and studied the use of book talks in our programs to support a culture of lifelong reading among our teacher candidates and to offer possibilities for candidates' future teaching experiences. The study took place over two years. In phase one, we studied groups of our candidates from our literacy/ language arts methods courses as they engaged in book talks. In phase two, we followed-up with nine of the participating candidates, three in each institution, during student teaching or their first year of teaching to explore how the book talk experience influenced their early teaching efforts. Findings show that book talks and the culture created in reading for pleasure and purpose made a positive impression on the way candidates viewed what it means to be a reader and their role as future teachers of literacy. In addition, we found many challenges that impeded candidates' efforts to act on their visions of using book talks and developing independent readers in their classrooms.

Inviting Teacher Candidates into Book Talks: Supporting a Culture of Lifelong Reading

"I truly didn't realize the significance of it until I was a member of this club. Books are meant to be discussed and to be

delved into and enjoyed and I need to teach my students how to do that before they will be able to do it on their own."

(Nina, Teacher Candidate)

Nina was a participant in our study that examined how teacher candidate book talks and opportunities to engage in pleasure reading might support our teacher candidates' knowledge and experience with promoting lifelong reading with their future students. As literacy educators, we often initiate conversations with our teacher candidates to think beyond the importance of modeling and supporting literacy strategies to consider how vital it is for teachers to be readers and writers and demonstrate a love of reading and writing (Ruddell, 1995). We open these conversations because ironically, despite the heavy curriculum focus on reading and language arts, many of our teacher candidates do not love to write or read. At the beginning of each semester, when we survey candidates, at least fifty percent of our candidates will admit that they rarely read for pleasure, do not like to read, or have a hard time "getting into" or "sticking with a book." Similarly, Applegate & Applegate (2004) have surveyed hundreds of their preservice teachers, also finding that, 51.5 % of their participants were "unenthusiastic readers." These results are of concern for us as many have asserted that the most effective teachers are those who demonstrate a love for reading (Draper, Barksdale-Ladd, & Radencich, 2000). Our experience with what differentiates a teacher as effective and influential concurs with this assertion.

We (the teacher educators/researchers of this study) share a philosophy that literacy instruction needs to include a balance of explicit teaching of word study and comprehension strategies, with opportunities to engage in reading real texts for pleasure as well for information.

Many states have adopted the Common Core Standards, which cover literacy in language arts and the content areas. These new standards are noteworthy for their emphasis on close, critical reading of fiction and nonfiction. Yet we, along with other practitioners, have noted in reviewing the goals and practices, that the Standards consider meaning to reside in the text itself (CCSS, 2010; Calkins, Ehrenworth, Lehman, 2012). The understanding of the personal and pleasurable aspects of reading, the transaction with the text (Rosenblatt, 1978), the importance of the reader's construction of the text's meaning (described more fully in this paper) is missing. …

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