What Reading Looks Like

When we think about what reading looks like, we might picture someone curled up with a good book in a comfy chair with a hot beverage nearby. We might picture someone perusing the news over breakfast, or reading an e-book during the morning commute.

If you ask someone outside of the education field what teens’ reading looks like, however, they might not picture anything. For example, when I mention to someone that I’m researching teens’ reading, many lament, “kids these days don’t read anymore!”

But they do! And I have photos to prove it. Here are a few photos of reading in my classroom.

1. Students choose their own texts.

We still read some classic texts (e.g., Of Mice and MenThe Great GatsbyRomeo and Juliet), but that’s not all we read. Even when reading classics, students connect the books to contemporary events and research they seek out themselves.

My students select independent reading books and read books of their choosing throughout the year.

The top student picks in the 2016-2017 school year (clockwise): Sold, The Rape of Nanking, The Poisoner’s Handbook, Steal Like an Artist, Nothing to Envy, Fangirl, Bossypants, Moneyball


Students take suggestions from YALSA’s list of “Outstanding Books for the College Bound” and the NoveList database. They create virtual bookshelves and groups on Goodreads, write reviews, and share recommendations. (Read more about independent reading and student book clubs in my classroom, here.)

2. Teens read and compose print and digital texts.

As Turner and Hicks (2015) argue in Connected Reading, the question of print vs. digital texts in the classroom is not about “either/or.” It’s about “both/and.” My students encounter a variety of texts, both print and digital. Rather than insisting they read or write in a specific way, I demonstrate options, and invite them to choose the best tool for their task.

The class reads a digital text (a “visual autobiography”) crafted by one student to introduce himself to his peers.
A student reads “Bartleby, the Scrivener” on his tablet computer, annotating with a stylus.
A student watches a short video for his research project on bionic limbs.

3. “Whole class” reading looks different each day.

Sometimes, students sit in a circle (or in small groups) and discuss a book that I assigned.


Other times, students read aloud in class.

Wearing dollar store props in front of “scenery” on the screen, students act out the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.

On designated independent reading days, students sit where they’re most comfortable. At back-to-school night, I asked parents to donate any furniture or items to help me create a cozy reading space in our classroom. Thanks to their generosity, we have a comfortable reading area with folding chairs that students move around the room.

Our cozy reading space made possible thanks to donations and student input.

Students also exchange reading recommendations virtually. My senior class created Pinterest boards this spring to organize and share online articles across disciplines.

Class Pinterest
A screenshot of the class’s shared Pinterest boards. These are the topics that 12th graders thought would interest them. (Not pictured: “Science & Medicine” and “The Future”)

What does reading look like in your classroom?

Let’s look at reading across grades and subjects. Please comment below or share classroom photos (with permission).

Share your photos with the hashtag #teensreading!

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