About Janas Byrd

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty.  It should be offered to them as a precious gift. —Kate DiCamillo



Books and reading are huge for me. As a child, I was captivated Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day. The idea of snow was incredible to my classroom of Floridians.

            In 3rd grade, I moved on to Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell and The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  

Series were an obsession: Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, The Cornicles of Narnia. I rarely met a series I didn’t like—chance to spend time with a character over and over again had great appeal.

            In junior high, To Kill a Mockingbird became my all time favorite book. As a transplant to the Mississippi Gulf Coast my 7th grade year and new kid on the block, I had even more time to read. It was an escape and I was right there in Maycomb with Jem, Scout and Dill trying to make Boo Radley come out.I have revisited Maycomb again and again throughout my teaching career, never tiring of the trip.

            My senior year of high school I studied in the Dominican Republic. The school library was a regular haunt. I had no television or air conditioning—the coolest way to spend weekend afternoons was reading.

            Then there were the Steven King and Anne Rice years.

Pet Cemetery, Misery and The Vampire Chronicles made reading a social activity. My friends and I would read and talk about the novels way before book clubs became a thing.

            In the early ‘90’s, a friendly neighborhood bookstore introduced me to a new love. Southern Fiction— Pat Conroy, Clyde Edgerton, Mark Childress, Olive Ann Burns, Fanny Flagg, Lee Smith, Rick Bragg and Kay Gibbons.

I couldn’t get enough. Still can’t.

            As I began my teaching career in 1990, I was at a loss for how to convince a student who didn’t like reading or didn’t read well to try again.

 My word wasn’t good enough…

So I read.

And read.

And read.

When I finally had plenty of book suggestions to offer, my students and I developed their individual reading plans using reading level and interests.

 I learned about Book Talks and had a copy or two of each title in my classroom.

Each class began with 15 minutes of silent reading—for all of us.

 I invested heavily in my classroom library. Sometimes a book disappeared—not necessarily a bad thing—but mostly they were passed on from student to student. The students kept waiting lists for the really popular books.

Slowly I developed street cred.

I passed muster.

I found my Super Power.

And they read.

And read.

And read.

There are just two rules that apply to pleasure reading in my classroom community:

  1. You don’t have to finish a book you don’t like. This is supposed to be fun!
  2. Return a book to the shelve after you finish it.

The reading community in my classroom continues and I promote reading throughout our school by sponsoring the school book club and acting as the school liaison with our local indie bookstore to organize author visits.

            The rare treat of a Free Reading Friday is always greeted with cheers of "Yes!"


To learn more bout the required reading curriculum at my school, visit carverlangarts.wordpress.com. This is the blog used by the 7th grade teachers.