Remaining Readers, Building Community

Delaney EarleyPrograms, Teachers

When is the last time you’ve had a chance to sit down and read a book for pleasure? For some, this may be a nightly ritual before bed or a hallmark of your daily commute. For many of us, it’s an activity that can easily fall by the wayside when time is scarce. The added motivation of an organized book club can be immensely helpful when scheduling time to read for enjoyment, and that is what WITS seeks to provide Rochelle Lee Teacher Awardees through the Remaining Readers Book Club.

Meet Ms. Martinez

Though Remaining Readers was created to help educators rediscover their personal love of reading, the book club serves many other purposes. Namely, it’s a forum for educators to build and strengthen connections with others in their field who share similar passions and goals. For RLTA awardee Rosa Martinez, a Kindergarten teacher at Holden Elementary School, Remaining Readers not only helped reignite her passion for reading, but also reintroduced her to a familiar face: Ms. Martinez’s own fourth-grade teacher from her time at Florence Nightingale Elementary School. Someone who, until this point, had unknowingly played a large role in shaping Ms. Martinez’s career as an educator.

As Ms. Martinez sat down at the second Remaining Readers meeting last fall, she immediately recognized the woman who began speaking. She listened to her former educator comment on how challenging it can be to teach younger students, as it is difficult to stay in touch and see the impact you may have had as time goes on. Hearing her teacher’s voice brought Ms. Martinez back to the fourth grade. She had just transferred schools, and this would be her first English-only classroom experience. Nevertheless, her teacher’s warmth instantly put her at ease. She recounted how quickly she learned and adapted to the English language, as her teacher “turned every learning opportunity into a song.” Her teacher found ways to expand access and bring joy into the classroom by encouraging students to come in early to use computers and to take home board games at the end of the school day to practice with their friends and family. She even stayed after-school to coach the volleyball team that Ms. Martinez played on.

Why Book Clubs Matter

Though the name on the Remaining Readers sign-in sheet did not match the name Ms. Martinez knew her former teacher by, she was unwilling to let doubt prevent her from hopefully restoring a long-lost connection. As the book club meeting ended, Ms. Martinez reintroduced herself, sharing with her former educator (and current RLTA peer) the many teaching strategies that she learned from her and is now implementing in her own classroom, such as reading to her class each day before they head out to recess.

While this reintroduction was certainly a highlight of Ms. Martinez’s book club experience this school year, she continues to enjoy Remaining Readers as a way to set personal reading goals and to gain exposure to novels she may not have individually selected. For example, Ms. Martinez’s book club selected titles that provide windows and mirrors, including work by female women of color and Native Americans. Reading these often-underrepresented perspectives, Ms. Martinez found that she could better relate to her students. She remarked that “it’s nice to read a book and be able to connect it back to your career.”

What happens outside the classroom, matters inside.  While Remaining Readings may be an extra monthly commitment for educators already devoting countless hours to their craft, the joy it inspires and the relationships it builds certainly has a large impact on students and teachers alike.