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A Juan Diego student reading a book during reading period.

JDReads’s Illustrious History

How previous reading programs shaped today's daily reading break

February 28, 2020

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.

Students reading in the auditorium during reading break.

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.

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