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February 29, 2012

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'Live to Read, Read to Live!'

THE sign on the door of Room 215 reads "Live to Read, Read to Live!" Welcome to literacy at Yew Chung International School of Shanghai's Century Park campus, where a critical focus is placed on literature, especially the love, joy and importance of reading throughout the English curriculum.

This passion extends to all English classes throughout the school, where each and every lesson commences with time devoted to students reading their own novels, short stories and collections of poetry. In fact, if you wander the corridors of Century Park at 7:45am, you will see students in Year 7 and beyond who have arrived early at school, deep in concentration, reading silently.

The class now drives this program themselves, it is their reading time, and they are very possessive about it. The different year level groups have set their own targets for reading. In Year 7, the entire group decided their target was to read 50 books as a group, including me. The students started to track their progress at the beginning of February, and they have already read 18 books! We call it The Fabulous 50, and when we reach our group target, we will celebrate with some food, and a reward lesson where we will sit and chat about what we loved, what we recommend, what we don't!

This passion for reading is spreading like a bush fire. Classes throughout the school have set their own targets, and the entire teaching staff at YCIS Shanghai has the reading bug, as well. With English Week fast approaching, the Century Park campus has devoted an entire week to literacy and its promotion. Teachers will share their favorite books with children, and not just the English teachers.

Reading is a lifelong love, a lifelong activity, and as role models in an international school, we place a high value on our staff modeling reading for life. When students see we value literacy through extensive reading, it reinforces and validates their own reading. It is what we all do.

The celebration of reading in all its forms can be seen in some of the activities YCIS Shanghai runs during this week. We have a Literary Lunch, where staff and students will bring in their favorite piece of literature and share it with everyone. It is amazing to see, on the one hand, a Year 8 student discussing her love of Harry Potter, and next a co-principal extolling the virtues of "The Great Gatsby." Quizzes, our obligatory '"Hot Chocolate Read," and excursion to Shanghai's Literary Festival are simply more of what promises to be a successful celebration of all things literary.

It's now 8:15am, and the Year 7 students will be asked to stop reading and share their thoughts and reflections, and move on to new material. They get the opportunity to discuss, recommend and share their reading. The link between their own reading and the class work is unbroken.

(Michael Knuppel is an English teacher at Yew Chung International School of Shanghai.)

YCIS recommended book list for Age 12: Artemis Fowl Eoin Colfer Walk Two Moons Sharon Creech Harry Potter J. K. Rowling The Hobbit J. R. R. Tolkein Eragon, Eldest, BrisingrChris Paolini The Outsiders S. E. Hinton Little Women Louisa May Alcott The Princess Bride William Goldman The Three Musketeers Alexandre Dumas Z for ZachariahRobert C. O'Brian Going SoloRoald Dahl


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