An In-Depth on Reading Break
February 10, 2020
“Take your seats!” “Close the doors!” The daily scene ensues.
Hundreds of high school students, books in hand, fight their way to their seats in a dimly lit auditorium. STAMPs dutifully check off students on attendance, teachers shuffle straggling students into their seats. We slowly get silent, we pray, and then, we read. At the heart of the school day, for 150 minutes on a full week, we read.
But where did reading time come from? Why are we reading at JD? And what does the average JD student actually do during reading anyways? Speaking Eagle staff took a deep dive on reading period, talking to faculty, admins, and students about JD’s favorite pastime.
JDReads’s Illustrious History
How previous reading programs shaped today's daily reading break
The reading break has been a successful part of the school day at Juan Diego for the past four years. But do you know about the attempted reading programs of JD’s past?
Dr. Celestino has been teaching at the school since 2006 and has experienced firsthand the different reading initiatives at JD. “We tried an SSR [Silent Sustained Reading] program in homerooms back about six or seven years ago,” said Celestino.
However, there were a few issues with this program. “Each homeroom teacher had their own idea of how it should go, teachers found it difficult to monitor students while also modeling reading themselves, and it was unclear what books students would be allowed to read,” Celestino argued.
The poor selection of books in the school also contributed to the failure of SRS. “We simply didn’t have enough books in the building to supply every student with a selection of engaging reading material,” Celestino explained.
Later on, the administration decided to have reading time in theology classes. “When SSR in homerooms failed, we tried moving it to specific classes, mainly theology, where teachers would have students read in class for 20 minutes once each week,” Celestino said. Celestino believes that this program “worked to an extent” but students simply weren’t getting enough reading time to “make a difference.”
In 2016, Dr. Colosimo discovered what he called “a simple piece of research…that said reading amongst high school students for leisure had dropped to an all-time low.” Another piece of research stated that reading for even short periods a day improves a high school student’s reading skills: “When a student reads for twenty minutes a day,” Colosimo said, “and even if they read…without a lot of effort, their gain in reading improved about 23% over all of those other students who didn’t read at all.”
After learning these facts, Colosimo was determined to change the culture of reading at Juan Diego and give students a better opportunity to read for leisure during the school day. The daily reading break in the auditorium was born.
Dr. Colosimo knew that the change from homeroom to reading period would be a big adjustment for both students and faculty. “What I decided early on is I’m not going to pick away at the details and ruin the basic thrust of what we were trying to accomplish,” Colosimo said, “Can you fake it? Yeah, you can fake it. Can you read textbooks? Yeah, you can read textbooks. Can you read assigned reading? Yeah, you can do that. I’m not a purist,” Colosimo explained. He doesn’t want the reading break to feel like a strict classroom.
Dr. Colosimo recognizes the spectrum of readers at our school: from passive readers who struggle to read one book a month to active readers who read many books every month. “What I think is a good base goal is to read a book a month-roughly about 300 pages,” Colosimo said, “Everybody is a reader, and a good reader when they find a book that they really really like,” Colosimo said.
Dr. Celestino claims that the current reading break has solved a lot of the issues of the previous programs. “By partnering with King’s English, we were able to identify books that teenagers enjoy reading and get them into our school and into the hands of students. There are books everywhere in the school now, which is really unusual for a high school and definitely wasn’t the case before,” Celestino said, “By having it in the auditorium, we can make sure that the execution and expectations are the same for everyone regardless of your mentor teacher,” Celestino finished.
Though his ultimate goal is for students to improve their reading skills, Dr. Colosimo hopes that students develop a love for reading over time. “Reading is its own reward. Read! Embrace it and hopefully over time you’ll grow into someone who understands the value of doing that for their own human development,” Colosimo finished.
Reading Period: A Statistical Breakdown
The stats of reading break at JD
The “Average” Students
Anecdotes from readers that back up our survey's findings.
According to the survey, here’s what the average JD student does during reading: sometimes falls asleep (38%), sometimes talks to their friends (37%), sometimes even stares off into space (39%), but ultimately is reading most of the time (half said they were reading above 75% of the time), and ultimately is getting through books at a steady pace (almost 80% reading more than 100 pages per month).
But since no one person is the exact embodiment of “average” during reading, here are some individual JDReads stories from students.
“I actually think it’s productive,” sophomore Adison Rutherford said, a new student at Juan Diego. “Sure, it’s redundant, but it does show positive results of reading and comprehension growth.” Rutherford is not alone in pushing through and taking advantage of the time: over half the students surveyed were reading above 200 pages per month.
“Usually I am actively reading. I’m sure as I keep doing reading period throughout high school that might change, but there isn’t much else to do except for read.” Rutherford said about her perspective on reading.
Given this is her first year in Juan Diego, the reading period concept here at Juan Diego is a whole new experience. “I’ve never had anything like it at old schools; only reading homework and even that wasn’t as strict. I guess it just makes Juan Diego a little more unique.”
Senior Olivia Culley found reading time to be an easy fit. “So my reading habits haven’t really changed. I have always enjoyed reading, and never had an issue with it,” Culley said. Even being exposed to reading period for four years, Culley is still able to actually read the majority of reading periods. Although, she is no exception to the occasional slip. “I feel like everyone has those days where you honestly fall asleep on accident. I have to have a decent book I’m into and am engaged with. It really depends on the day.”
The occasional doze isn’t uncommon among JD students: almost 40% admitted to falling asleep sometimes, though full on sleeping isn’t terribly common, with only about 15% of students saying they “often” or “always” sleep.
Though the majority of the student body does not actually dislike reading, the structure and location of reading period could use some fine tuning.
“Occasionally, I just can’t bring myself to read. It would be easier if it was in mentor groups or something.” Rutherford also stated.
“Sometimes I just get really anxious during reading,” sophomore Lauren Lindula said. “It’s so cramped and deathly silent, I’m just not comfortable enough to do any actual reading. Not to mention how cold it is.” Lindula stated.
Reading period isn’t an exact science, and as he stated in an above article, Dr. Colosimo isn’t “a purist,” so hopefully some changes can be made to better serve the “average” JD student. With that said, this incarnation of reading time is the most successful yet, and the survey statistics back this up.