“What book are you reading?” That’s the question Principal Mackee Mason asks students as he roams the campus of IDEA Carver Academy and College Prep, an open enrollment, tuition-free, public charter school on San Antonio’s East Side.
On my recent tour, as I mentioned earlier, I visited the Accelerated Reading Zone, a place for reading books and for building reading comprehension skills. Students are encouraged to take a book to carry along with them throughout the day. If they have a quiet moment during the school day, they can pull out their book and fit in a little more reading.
Why? “There is only so much time in the day, and we need to work hard to close the achievement gap,” says Principal Mason.
The emphasis on reading continues outside of class. Principal Mason encourages parents to take their kids to the library on Saturdays. At home, parents should also be asking their kids, “What book are you reading?”
What a simple, beautiful idea—always carry a book with you, and pull it out immediately when you are done with your work. A simple idea can become very powerful if it develops into a strong habit. Reading will become a lifelong habit for these students and will propel them to success in college and beyond.
My love of reading developed when I was in the fourth grade. My parents took me on many trips to the Coronado Public Library; I read a lot of science fiction, especially Jules Verne (I was into steampunk before the term was invented) and historical novels by Alexandre Dumas. I carried a book with me all the time at school and would pull it out when I was left alone. Sometimes I got resistance from teachers: they wanted me to socialize more, or they didn’t like my choice of books (e.g., my spy novel phase). I got teased by other students for reading so much or reading such thick books. How wonderful it would have been to learn in an environment like IDEA where reading is celebrated.
The “What book are you reading?” question is one of many reasons why I am convinced that bringing the IDEA academic model to San Antonio is creating great opportunities for our children.
There are more IDEA Carver stories to share: for example, I had never heard the term “direct instruction” before; after seeing it in action in a kindergarten classroom, I am now a believer.