Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From the Office of the Future of Reading

Please join me in welcoming today's guest blogger, Karen Terlecky. Karen is a fifth grade language arts teacher at Glacier Ridge Elementary in Dublin, Ohio.  Karen co-authors the blog, Literate Lives, and is a contributor for the Choice Literacy website.

Karen Terlecky, Barbara O'Connor and Kirby Larson; photo lifted from Barbara's blog

It is Sunday morning, and I’m sitting at my kitchen table, wrapped up in my comfy robe, feet in my warm and fluffy slippers, headband holding my hair back, and not a lick of makeup on my face.  These are all signals to me that it’s time to chat with my students about books and their reading lives.

My students write reading response letters to me every other week.  We fondly call them Mrs. T letters in our class, but they are far more than just letters to me.  They are really letters to the community of readers in our classroom, where we begin conversations in our letters and then continue those conversations in our comments.  We are able to have these quality discussions by using the KidBlog website, where students post their letters and comments.

There are many reading standards that we as teachers are required to cover, but all of those standards pale in comparison to helping children develop true reading lives. 

Our Mrs. T letters help us grow as readers.  The letters are focused on reactions, thoughts, opinions, and feelings about different parts of each student’s reading life.  One student could share about a recent trip she made to the public library and the pile of books she brought home.  Another student might share his observations and feelings about our current read aloud.  Yet another might share about a favorite character, series, or book, and explain why she loves it so much.  But all students are thinking deeply about reading and what it means to them.

The community piece of this is important as well.  We start writing these letters after we’ve established a community of readers in our classroom; we have built trust and we know each other’s likes and dislikes when it comes to reading.  Our Mrs. T letters just help accentuate and fine tune where we are as readers at any given point in time.

Then, when we add the next layer of thinking with our comments, it enriches the lives of all readers.  There are threads of conversations that begin to appear, just as in other social media.  Recently, several students wanted to read Out of My Mind, and through the conversation on KidBlog, decided to form their own book club.  Another student was struggling for a book to read; he just couldn’t settle on one that held his interest for long.  When he sent an appeal for recommendations out in his letter, the response was overwhelming.  He then had a wide variety of books from which to choose, and he settled on a series that was very popular with his classmates, Myth-o-Mania.

The weekend mornings I spend perusing the Mrs. T letters and comments are absolutely delicious.  For a few hours, I spend time getting to know my readers better personally, and I make sure that I leave a meaningful comment for each reader.  I want them to know that we are all members of this club of readers, of which I am a member as well.  

Thank you Karen for sharing such a wonderful way to take reading to the next level for kids. 


  1. When I read about these amazing teachers who love books and kids so much, I'd like to turn back the clock (a lot) and become a new reader again.
    "We start writing these letters after we’ve established a community of readers in our classroom"-- Love this!

    1. You are so kind to say these lovely things. My goal is a teacher is to spread the love of reading I've had my entire life. Thanks to all of you who write the texts and stories we love to read!

  2. We do Response Journals in my classroom too. I love your idea of doing it on a blog so that the students can also respond to each other. Their posts are fabulous!

    1. Thanks Dawn. I really love the community feeling that the blog allows us to have. Everyone has access to all the wonderful thinking in the room with KidBlog.