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Seventh-graders learn to read ... for fun

Students from Kim Goodall's seventh-grade language arts class at Hagen each read more than 40 books outside of class this school year, something that was encouraged but not required or graded. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press1 / 2
Half of Hagen Junior High School's seventh grade collectively read 2,166 books in their free time this school year as part of an initiative to encourage reading. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press 2 / 2

A seventh-grade class at Hagen Junior High read 40 or more books this school year outside of the classroom as part of the English department's push to encourage literacy.

The students were asked to read independently outside of the classroom, though it was never a graded assignment. All told, half the seventh grade, about 115 students, read 2,166 books in their free time this school year. Some read more than 80 books.

Kim Goodall, a seventh-grade English language arts teacher, helped spearhead the effort to get her students reading more.

"We're just trying to get them to love to read again because typically literacy drops off around now and their love of reading, and other activities come into play so they don't have time anymore," Goodall said. "So we're trying to get them back to reading because it kind of drives success in every other academic area when they're passionate about reading."

This is the first year Goodall tried this initiative. She was initially unsure how well it would work since the reading would have to occur outside of class and was not a graded assignment.

The first day she told her students about the idea, one of her students told her that she hated reading and would likely only read one book during the school year. That student ended up being one of the children who read 40 or more books after she found two series she enjoyed, Goodall said.

"That's what we want. We want them to be excited and find things they like to encourage them to keep going," Goodall said. "It gives me goose bumps to talk about it because I'm so proud of them."

Principal Marcus Lewton said reading is especially important because of the correlation found between it and future success in secondary and post-secondary learning. While all language arts teachers do a good job of encouraging kids to read more, this was an especially successful example, he said.

"I think that sometimes people get down on this age group because they're squirrely, they're changing and their hormones are going crazy," Goodall said. "But what they don't understand is how bright they are and how cool they are and how funny and how smart, and when you give them a task that they really love, how dedicated they are and how responsible. So we have a really cool crew of kids coming up into our community next few years."

Ellie Potter

Ellie Potter started working for The Dickinson Press in September of 2016 as a news reporter. She graduated from the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va. in December of 2015 with a degree in journalism. She is originally from Columbus, Ohio and has worked for publications in Prague, Czech Republic; Washington, DC and Richmond, Va. 

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