Educators, particularly English Language Arts teachers and librarians, play a critical role in cultivating students’ love for reading. Studies have shown that teachers who are passionate readers bring valuable literacy practices into the classroom. However, in their efforts to improve students’ reading abilities, it is important not to overlook the reading habits and needs of educators themselves. Even though most teachers understand the importance of reading for fun, a study looking at teachers’ reading practices found that nearly half of teachers do not read for pleasure regularly.
“You have to do things after work to pour into your spirit, and reading may not be at the top of that list,” said literacy educator Lois Marshall Barker, who has over 14 years of experience as a classroom teacher, instructional coach and professional development and curriculum specialist. Despite a recent RAND survey indicating that teachers’ stress levels have returned to pre-pandemic levels, 23% of teachers said they intended to leave their jobs, with stress being one of the top reasons. Research shows reading can relieve stress and help people develop overall empathy skills. And a well-developed school culture around reading can help teachers access these benefits and avoid burnout, according to Barker. At The Educator Collaborative’s biannual Gathering last spring, she outlined ways teachers can carve out space to nurture their reading habits.
Examine your reading journey
Every reader has a relationship to reading that has changed over time. Barker calls this a reading journey. By reflecting on the events that have shaped their journey, teachers can gain insights into their own reading habits and preferences. She encouraged teachers to think about questions like, “When did you first encounter reading?”
Equally important is examining the factors that might hinder teachers’ reading habits. By thinking about questions like, “What prevents you from reading?” teachers can identify potential obstacles, such as lack of time and competing priorities, that might impact their reading.
Additionally, in many parts of the country, there has been an increase in efforts to ban or censor certain books, which has had a direct impact on teachers’ freedom to engage in open discussions about their reading choices. In a recent survey by the RAND Corporation, one-quarter of teachers said that restrictions on how they talk about race and gender have influenced their choice of curriculum materials and discussion topics. A subset of the teachers surveyed — most of them language arts or elementary education teachers — described how the restrictions have made teaching “more stressful, fear inducing, and difficult.”