What does building strong relationships with your students have to do with being a great literacy coach? Everything! City Year’s literacy expert, Allison Thompson, offers advice for the first few months of the school year on how to make your students more confident about strengthening their reading skills.
Start by building solid relationships. “Student relationships are at the center of what we do. Building relationships with students is critical to any academic success. Get to know a student and what interests them. You’ll be better able to connect them with a book or text that they might get excited about. If they’re really into sports, help them find something about sports. If they’re really into music or art, help them find something about one of their favorite artists.” By spending time with students, you gain insights that help in making connections to what they are reading—which is a great step toward lifelong literacy.
Take advantage of school resources. ``Get to know the media specialist at your school. Get familiar with the library so you know where to find books for different age levels and gather ideas for books that are right for your students.’’ Does the library have book clubs or book lists? You also can get creative, like putting together a bulletin board that shares information about what you’re reading, your students’ favorite books or what the class is reading together.
Search for books that speak to your students. ``People are drawn toward books where there’s an authentic connection—where the text resonates with them,’’ Allison says. “Students are more engaged in what they’re reading when they can see themselves in the books.” If you need additional resources that might not be available in your school library, you can find inspiration on reading lists published throughout the year during celebrations like National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct.15), Black History Month (February), Women’s History Month (March) and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (May).
Learn more about how City Year AmeriCorps members help to support student growth in mathematics and English Language Arts.
Learn Together. If your class reads a novel, read it along with them, Allison says. ``You’ll be able to have a true dialogue about that book and participate alongside the student—possibly making connections they’re not experiencing in the classroom.’’ Seek out resources related to the book that provide insights you can share with students. Reading with them also builds on the relationship with your students, showing the importance of the work they are doing.
Build Confidence. ``Reading isn’t something that everyone feels confident in,’’ Allison says. ``It might take time for them to feel comfortable reading with you. That’s why relationship building is important—so they know you are there to encourage and support them.’’ You might have students who are aware they’ve fallen behind peers who read or write more fluently. ``Think about how you can acknowledge this while also providing goals for your time together,’’ Allison says. ``This might sound like `I hear that you are frustrated because you aren’t comfortable with this content—let’s spend some time working together on this so that you feel more confident.’ Or `I noticed that you haven’t been speaking up in class, but you shared some really great thoughts with me. Could we spend some time talking about what you’ve read so you feel better about sharing your ideas with your class?’” Building confidence and independence with reading skills will develop over time with the help of the trusting relationships that students have with you.