Reading goes by the boards at high school
In 36 years of teaching English at Eureka Springs High School, Kathleen Remenar has heard a lot of reasons why students didn't read the assignment.
What she hasn't heard until this year: "Can I borrow that book when you're done?"
That's because Remenar and Jake Allen, who also teaches English, post what books they've just finished, what they are currently reading and what they want to read on boards outside their classroom, and have asked the other teachers to do the same. The book lists have sparked conversations not just with students but among the staff.
"What is happening is that teachers are starting to talk about books," Remenar said. "They just don't read in their field."
The idea came from Literacy Lab, a national program introduced in Arkansas by Ken Steamatis. Remenar and Allen attended a four-day workshop in July on the program, which promotes literacy in every aspect of the curriculum. One thing that struck them: if you want your students to read, you have to talk to them about what you read. Allen and Remenar took the idea a step further.
"We decided to post it outside our rooms, not just the English teachers, but everybody in the building," she said.
Librarian Tracy Ledesma made laminated boards for the teachers, coaches, principal and counselor. After Remenar posted her first book, a psychological thriller by Gillian Flynn called "Gone Girl," three students came to request it from her. The book also reinforces what she teaches in class.
"It has a really cool way of shifting point of view," Remenar said.
Over in the gym, Coach Brian Rambo posted the book he just finished, "Imperfect: The Jim Abbott Story," his current book, "When March Went Mad," and what he plans to read, "Foul Ball." Daniel Moose, who teachers social studies, is reading Hobbes and Locke, just finished "The Epic of Gilgamesh," and plans to read ancient Egyptian poetry. Science teacher Katy Turnbaugh read Michener's "The Caribbean," is currently perusing chemistry and physics texts, and plans to get to back issues of 'Scientific American.' Linnea Koester, who teachers Spanish, just finished "Ship Breaker," by Paolo Bacigalupi, is reading "Drowned Cities" by the same author, and plans to read "Sense of Snow."
"She's a science fiction girl," Remenar said.
Dave Parkman, the alternative learning teacher, is reading "The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America," just read "Diary of the Sinai Campaign" by Moshe Dayan, and plans to read "SuperFreakonomics." Remenar's current book is "The King of Lies," by John Hart, a murder mystery set in a small Southern town. She plans to read the latest John Irving, and would like to read something current on world religions.
"I need a title," she said.
Remenar said that sharing what you're reading may lead to the school holding book chats at night, with parents and students talking about books they've read.
She and Allen also incorporate free reading time into each of their classes, and provide popular material: "People," "American Mechanic," "Car and Driver." Students can also read on the internet. Encouraging kids to read is the goal -- it doesn't matter what it is, Remenar said.
"The more kids read, the higher the test scores in every subject," she said. "The greatest indication of success in college is not ACT scores. It's how much you read."
Remenar said the high school will send other teachers to Literacy Lab -- the key is infusing a focus on literacy throughout the school. She's already noticed the difference in the few weeks the lists have been up.
"What's cool is that students are recommending books to me," she said.