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Teachers as Readers: Making Time to #Read4Fun

By Jennifer Williams
 | Aug 26, 2015

Develop a love of reading.

Nurture your reading identity.

Connect personally and deeply with characters and stories.

All these are phrases I have found myself proclaiming to students as a literacy specialist. Understanding the critical importance of devoting time to reading for pleasure, I always charged myself with helping all students see themselves as readers. Equally, as an educator, I always understood the power that modeling can have on learning. However, it was in this area that I found I was not leading by example. This is my story of how I rediscovered my reading identity through friendship, connection, and a lifelong love of reading.

In February, as I was approaching my birthday and setting goals for the year, I suddenly realized I had lost touch with my connection to books. Though I was constantly reading educational research for my doctorate program and buying every professional development book I could to help me learn and grow as an educator, I was no longer the read-for-fun-and-enjoyment reader I had been years before. As a literacy specialist, this went against everything I knew of the importance of reading for enjoyment. So I decided at that moment I wanted to reunite with my dormant reading identity.

Energized by my mission to find great new titles, I woke up on a Saturday morning and sent out a simple tweet asking for any good book recommendations. Soon after, my friend on Twitter, Sean Gaillard, a high school principal and former English teacher, responded with a suggestion. Within the hour, fellow educators Lena Marie Rockwood and Connie Rockow also joined the conversation. Soon we were taking our conversation on books to a group direct message. By that afternoon, though we were states away from one another, we each were at our own local bookstores, messaging together with sheer excitement and joy. Four people who had never met were connected and inspired around the topic of books. Our passion was ignited!

We likened our conversation to a discussion over a virtual cup of coffee. After preparing our lists of must-read books, we decided we would challenge one another to read at least 15 minutes per day and would do a “status check” on Twitter on Sunday evenings. To make it simple, we created the chat hashtag #Read4Fun. We were set! We had our challenge, our book picks, and a date of March 1 to “meet” for the first time. This date, as it soon occurred to us, couldn’t have been more fitting, as it was World Book Day, Read Across America Day, and Dr. Seuss’s birthday! What happened next was pure “Connected Educator Magic!”

Over the week, as we were gathering our books, we had other educators express interest in joining us. When we finally got to our first chat on Sunday, we were amazed—we had hundreds of educators join in, and, within 15 minutes, we were the #1 trending topic! We had educators from all over the world joining us, and, in what felt like a moment, we went from being an inspired group to a truly ignited global community.

Over the months, extraordinary things have continued to happen with our group; it truly has been a life-changing experience. What we found was that teachers, a group who selflessly gives of themselves and constantly encourages children to find a love of reading, had often neglected to make time for themselves. Together as a #Read4Fun community of connected educators, we realized it wasn’t about having time, it was about making time!

This adventure has brought such positivity to a truly deserving group of educators, and we look forward to continuing our journey with #Read4Fun and with books this school year!

All educators are invited to join the #Read4Fun movement and share in our mission to connect with books and reading. Please visit our website for more information. The #Read4Fun “reading heroes” meet on the first and third Sundays of the month at 7:00 p.m. EDT sharing in conversations surrounding books, literacy, and teaching. Also, check out Shelfie Wednesday, where book picks are shared on Twitter and Periscope.

jennifer willliams headshotJennifer Williams is the cofounder of #Read4Fun. As a literacy specialist, she is inspired by the power of books and stories of connection. Connect with her on Twitter and at the #Read4Fun chat hosted by @read4funchat.

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