Many of my sixth graders are now using digital bookmarks to keep track of their reading these days. At first, I was quite skeptical about this practice - setting the timer for reading did not seem natural somehow. Shouldn't my kids just learn how to slip into a reading tempo that came from the joy and delight of reading a book they really enjoyed?
We've been working on increasing their reading stamina all year, and although our in-class reading seemed to be progressing beautifully, some of my kids seemed to be doing less well with their out of school reading. And, these were just the kids who really needed to be reading more!
During our conferences, I heard the same old excuses: I didn't have time to read, I read but not enough, I thought I was reading for a long time but... For these readers, it seemed, it was a challenge to replicate the sustained reading they were doing in class at home.
Sometime before winter break, after a parent teacher conference with the parents of just such a student, this particular kiddo arrived at school brandishing a digital bookmark". I'd never heard of them, and he proudly showed me exactly how it worked. So, I asked, did it help you read more this weekend? Yes! So, we shared this idea with the rest of the class, and then I noticed that quite a few students had gone out and purchased these. All of them seem to have found ways in which to monitor and expend their independent reading time at home. Some set a time frame, some clock their reading time, some add up their weekly reading and set goals for the following week - can I read more? did I spend enough time reading at home? what patterns do I notice in my reading habits?
All of these questions and discoveries have become a part of our reading conferences as well, and I feel I have (through their data gathering) a much better understanding of their reading lives. I'm thinking of putting in for a class set of these through our HSA funds for those students who could benefit from this but haven't yet gotten around (or, more likely, won't ever get around) to purchasing them for themselves.