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We Believe: In Reading

Updated: Mar 1

At Blacksburg New School, we believe in reading. Whether it is reading in school, reading at home, parent-led read-aloud, listening to audiobooks, or having parents model reading themselves, reading is an essential part of a child’s education. Books, and the love of books, can also be enjoyed as a shared experience. Reading together builds fluency and creates opportunities to practice comprehension, and it predicts future enjoyment of reading. Especially in today’s busy world, reading together allows for moments of thoughtful connection, and we strongly encourage BNS parents to read aloud to their children every night.


There have been countless studies that show the value of reading, besides increasing vocabulary and spelling ability. In 2002, one study showed that reading enjoyment was a better indicator of school success than a student’s socio-economic background. Reading has been linked to personal development, higher levels of self-esteem, the ability to build empathy, and an increased ability to cope with challenges. And of course, reading early in life has been linked to enjoying reading more as an adult, and in increased general knowledge as adults.


kids reading together

But recently, the value of reading has been questioned in the public school system, namely questioning the topics and content of what is inside of books. We have seen pictures of public school bookshelves taped off and awaiting official approval of the books’ content. The public school English curriculum has also been adjusted, de-emphasizing the role of books in the classroom, and instead focusing on an analysis of short passages from these books.


At BNS we feel the opposite about books, and have tried to embrace them even more (if that’s possible). Each classroom has a large library of age-appropriate books for students to choose from. Literature choices in classes often focus on using books as a springboard for difficult discussions, such as using Harvesting Hope: the Story of Cesar Chavez to discuss racism and workers’ rights, Wonder to discuss kindness and bullying, Weedflower to discuss the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, or Born on the Water to discuss African enslavement in early American settlements.



We aren’t afraid of books at BNS, or the conversations that ensue from being exposed to new ideas. By the time students graduate eighth grade, many have read To Kill a Mockingbird, Call of the Wild, Ban this Book, Animal Farm, or 1984, books that in other settings have previously been banned. Age-appropriate discussions about the world become more relatable through books, and children develop empathy for those living through situations different from their own. The learning experience of reading provides children the opportunity to develop and define their own opinions and values.


We also embrace reading books aloud as a community-building tool. Teachers are often reading to their classes, either in individual classrooms, or outside on our campus in places like the Forest Classroom. In mixed-grade settings, older Reading Buddies work with younger students to read picture and chapter books together. Students often free-read at home (or bring their choice-novels back into school for in-class free-reading), and then they later present to their peers what they learned and enjoyed about the books they read. Each year, we choose one “common book” that every class reads, in order to create a shared experience across all grade levels at BNS. 


Reading is an essential part of the curriculum at Blacksburg New School. We love books, and believe in the power of reading.




 

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