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Early Childhood Educators know the importance of quality literacy exposure, opportunities, and instruction.  A myriad of studies have all pointed to the same result—evidence supports that children who read for enjoyment every day perform better on tests, develop a more robust vocabulary, think more critically, and have an increased understanding of other cultures.  Research also indicates that just 20 minutes spent reading each day helps students to develop critical reading skills necessary for overall scholastic success.  Reading is the most crucial subject taught in school as a child needs reading to master most of their other subjects.  In short—Reading Matters.   

Reading matters so much in the early elementary grades that we devote large blocks of time to literacy development and utilize a variety of research-based instructional strategies (like The Daily Five/CAFE) to engage, teach, and support strong reading skills in our youth.  However, with the increased complexity of text in the middle school grades, as well as the significant disparity between the reading skills our adolescent students have and what is needed to meet the demands of life in the 21st century world, daily reading exposure, opportunities, and instruction are not only important – they’re essential!   

One of the ways that our WIVA middle school teachers are trying to reach students and encourage them to keep reading over the summer is through the 3rd Annual Middle School Book Fair.  Students were encouraged to submit a book that they recommend for their peers to read.  Each participant provided a story synopsis as well as some reasons why they recommend reading their book.     

Mrs. Knuese, whom a student referred to as “goddess of all teachers” in the chat box, facilitated the book fair and quickly set the tone for the importance of reading.  She shared that reading skills correspond to a student’s ability to:   

  • Be an informed citizen; 
  • Communicate effectively; 
  • Earn a higher salary; 
  • Succeed in one’s chosen career; and  
  • Achieve personal fulfillment

Mrs. Knuese also shared some sobering statistics, such as:  

  • Less than half (48%) of adults in America read literature for pleasure 
  • The percentages of 17-year-olds who read nothing at all for pleasure has doubled over a 20-year-period  

She then set the stage for our WIVA middle school students to encourage their peers to read.  The presenters accepted this challenge with enthusiasm as they proudly promoted a vast array of cherished texts spanning a wide verity of genres and time periods.   

WIVA middle school students were treated to the complexity of 19th century English problems and etiquette rules through Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; an adventurous journey of self-discovery in Sharon Creech’s story Walk Two Moons; for fans of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid stories, The Loser List by Holly Kowitt was promoted as a “funny, creative, and totally ‘the sauce’” book; and stories such as The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and many more were enthusiastically shared.  Not to be outdone, WIVA history teacher Mrs. Gasser shared a series of historical mystery stories by Lois Walfrid Johnson, which take place in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.  

The enthusiasm in the book fair was palpable, so much so that that middle school teachers extended the class connect time to allow for students to go back through the slides after the presentations were over so that they could re-read and capture any stories that sparked their personal interest.  I have to admit, even this K-2 teacher added a few titles to my summer reading list as well!  They did more than inspire each other to read and thus continue to grow and learn, they inspired me!  Just another reason why I am proud to teach at Wisconsin Virtual Academy.

About The Author

Shawna Stueck

Shawna Stueck teaches kindergarten through second grade at Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA).  Prior to joining WIVA in March 2014, Shawna taught general and special education for students in grades PK-5 in Wisconsin for three years, and also was a math and reading support tutor for a high poverty/at-risk Title 1 schools.  Furthermore, Shawna has taught American history to students across the country at several living history museums, including Jamestown and Yorktown Foundation in Virginia.  Shawna graduated from Silver Lake College in 2010 with a bachelor of science degree in education in early childhood general and special education.  She went on to earn her master's of art degree in education in 2016 with an emphasis in teacher leadership, while also earning an additional #316 reading teacher license.  Shawna lives in a 120-year-old historical home that she’s renovating in De Pere, Wisconsin, with her husband and three children—all WIVA students!  She loves all things history, knitting, reading, spending time with her family, music, and most of all - laughing! 

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