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Keystone Educator’s Passion for Independent Reading Sparks Student-led Book Club

Tully Quinn, eighth-grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher at Keystone Academy, always knew she wanted to be a teacher. She was the oldest child in her family, and she always tried to get the younger kids to play school. So it came as no surprise that she went off to college and majored in the thing that was truly part of her personality: education.
When she started at Keystone, it felt right to her. She had worked in other schools before, but she remembered clicking with the dean and the principal at the time. Over the three years since she joined the Keystone family, she has left an impact on the school community and her scholars.

“Ms. Quinn is an exceptional teacher who understands the balance of building relational capacity with her students in order to help them reach their fullest potential academically,” said Jorvonna Drain, principal at Keystone. “Through her efforts, Ms. Quinn’s students are able to achieve academic success where they consistently display above average growth in reading. We are blessed to have her a part of the Keystone family!”
Though education was a no brainer for Ms. Quinn, she didn’t always plan on teaching ELA. She always loved reading and writing, but it wasn’t until she observed a high school English class that her interest in writing seeped into her love for education.

Since then, she has become passionate about independent reading and book clubs – two elements of education she holds in high regard. She even recently discussed these topics as a guest on the Teacher’s Lounge podcast. Listen to her episode here on Apple Podcasts or here on Spotify.  ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Ms. Quinn’s book club for students, which she started last year for middle schoolers, has evolved to include students in seventh and eighth grade. The club members meet monthly on Google Meet for half an hour after school to discuss the book of the month, play a game, and chat about what they’ll read next month. The club uses Google Classroom to keep chatting about the book, vote for what they’d like to read next, and even make recommendations to each other.

Book club is a lot of fun for Ms. Quinn, and she is very passionate about the benefits of independent reading. She believes it’s important for students to read what they’re interested in so it will carry them through when they need to read other things for school. She also believes that reading teaches students to be better writers, along with other ELA skills, without having to be implicitly taught.
Ms. Quinn strives to instill a life-long love of learning through reading in her students, but she also believes there are further benefits to the practice. According to the International Literacy Association’s Literacy Leadership Brief titled “Creating Passionate Readers Through Independent Reading”, “Independent reading is a valuable use of time because of the many benefits students realize from reading practice and volume: Students develop reading stamina, their vocabulary and background knowledge increases, and they acquire reading habits.”

Ms. Quinn attributes “The Book Whisperer” by Donalyn Miller for having introduced her to the importance of independent reading in class. “The book gives tons of resources for finding books for struggling readers, how to talk about books with students, and how to promote engagement with reading in class,” she said.
To continue her focus on independent reading, she starts each school year with a “speed dating with a book” activity, which allows students to skim books quickly to build a list of what they’d like to read. Ms. Quinn also provides a reading interest form for her students to fill out that she uses to make book recommendations.

The independent reading activities don’t stop there. She devotes the first 20 minutes of each ELA class to silent reading and holds weekly reading conferences with every student to talk about their independent reading book. They discuss how they like it and any questions they have. “This is awesome because it helps me to get to know my student so I can suggest another good book for them when they finish their book,” said Ms. Quinn.
Keep up the excellent work, Ms. Quinn!