Most parents and teachers realize that readers are taught rather than born. It isn’t often that you’ll see a child pick up a book on his own when there are so many other activities that he could be doing. That’s why the faculty at Nash Elementary is doing something to change the way students view books.

Recently when I visited Nash Elementary School, I noticed that there were director’s clapboards everywhere I looked. They were on the secretary’s desk, next to every classroom, and even hanging outside the principal’s office. Every sign proudly announced what each faculty member was reading.

As a lifelong reader and someone who has spent years working with at-risk children and tutoring reading in elementary schools in other communities, I loved this idea! I sat down with Principal Brandy Debenport and asked her about the motivation behind the signs.

“We are really trying to do a big push for reading on this campus,” Principal Debenport says. “I went to a conference and heard someone talk about the need to create a culture of reading, so we’re trying to model for kids that we read for pleasure.”

After attending the conference, Debenport returned to Nash Elementary with a head full of ideas. She got together with some of her more creative teachers, and they produced the director’s clapboards to coincide with this year’s Hollywood theme at the school.

As we walked around the school, I saw that teachers were consuming everything from children’s books like The Hunger Games and grown-up fiction like James Patterson’s Private to instructional guidebooks like The End of Molasses Classes, which Debenport is currently reading.

Now, not only do students see what their teachers are reading, but they can frequently overhear conversations where adults say things like “I’m reading the same book right now” or “Didn’t you love chapter two?”

Fire Marshal Chris Black reads Fire Truck to students at Nash Elementary

Community leaders are also invited to come in and read to the children. The day I visited, Fire Marshal Chris Black was there with some of his team to read Chris Oxlade’s Fire Truck to students in an effort to promote fire safety.

“Having the firemen read to the kids helps them see that reading isn’t just something they need to learn to pass second grade,” Debenport says.

The faculty also wears buttons that ask “What are you reading?” Debenport says she obtained them from a Scholastic representative who visited the school.

In coming weeks, each child will get to pick a book of their own when the Scholastic book fair arrives on campus.

“Our goal is to create kids who love to read,” Debenport says. “We want them to understand that reading is a lifelong skill that can bring enjoyment.”

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