Kindergartners and Third Graders Discover Their Reading Identities and Book Joy

Our Literacy Champion Islah Tauheed worked with two teachers, third grade teacher Melissa Bowman and kindergarten teacher Elana Vela; over the course of the school year, each child chose six books to take home, read, and keep.

We interviewed Elana at the end of the school year to learn more about her experience helping her kinders learn to regard themselves as readers with their own unique interests and book preferences.

It’s been such a joy to see how excited they are about their books and about different topics and discovering topics that they didn’t think they would like… Because in the beginning: the girls wanted princess books; the boys wanted superhero books; that was pretty much it. But once I pushed them a little bit, and once they saw what their friends were ordering, and once they saw what I read to them in class, they got more excited about different topics…

I think them seeing reading as a fun, exciting thing has made it maybe a little easier to teach them how to read because they love looking at books. And they go home and they say, “Oh, I’m so excited to read this to my sister”, or “I’m excited to show my friend this book” or… And they ask me questions about authors. I’ll read them the book and they’ll be like, “Is this the same author or does this…?” A bunch of my girls wanted Princess Hair by Sharee Miller because I read it in class, so they all wanted it, but we explored what other books that author has, so I was showing them like, “Even if it’s not the book you want, you can find one with a similar theme or a similar title”, just making them aware of things that five-year-olds aren’t necessarily aware of…

It’s been really joyful because it’s just fun to watch them. Hopefully they grow up still enjoying reading  and develop as strong readers.

Elana Vela, kindergarten teacher at 189 Cornerstone Academy, Brooklyn, New York.

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