Forty two percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
Eighty percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year." Jenkins Group
|Our classroom library|
Yesterday I posted that quote and a link to a blog post entitled "Time to Get Angry About Reading" on my Facebook page. It sparked a lot of response--mostly surprise by adult friends that people aren't reading ( I seem to surround myself with people who do read). But a former student posted that he probably won't read after his Freshman HONORS program because there are too many other things for him to do. Whatever reading he will do will be interesting things he finds on the internet. YIKES!
But I know what I think is the cause of the problem. We teach reading to death. We kill whatever spark there is in a student by analyzing and comparing and talking and writing and lit circling and assigning... we take the joy out of reading. I HATED that as a student. Teachers had terrible taste in what books students should read. Teachers were slow to embrace Young Adult literature.Teachers thought if it was old, it must be good. I rebelled. I read the Cliff Notes and whatever I could find on the public library's shelves.
I LOVED the public library. Especially after we moved to the other side of town and the BIG library was within walking distance of our house--important when you had a mom who didn't drive. I loved the smell of dust and old stories as I walked through the front door. I loved climbing the stairs to the fiction section and losing myself in the stacks. I loved that no one told me what to read. I could spend hours there.
I made friends with Scarlett and Francie Nolan. Jane Eyre and Scout. Jo March and Rebecca. And hundreds more. My parents were readers and they didn't tell me I wasn't old enough for a book, they just let me read what I wanted. And today, I am a reader--but I still hate to be told what to read (which is why I sometimes struggle with our book club books).
So, when given the freedom, I teach that way. I rebell against the teaching of class novels and lit circles. I encourage students to pick out their own books. I tell non-readers that I will find them at least one book that they will look back on and say, "Yea, that book didn't suck." And then I do...
You see, I am a teacher who reads. I read adult books. I read young adult books. I read reviews of books. I talk about the books I am reading. I listen to kids talk about books they like. I pass them on.
Roomie and I have close to 1000 books in our classroom library. Some the school bought for our second chance reading class, but MANY are ours. And we share... Teachers and students alike come to our room to check out books. Many are kept over the summer because they didn't get finished. We hear "Find me a book I will like" many times throughout the school year. And, we do.
We talk to them and ask them things like, "What do you like to do outside of school?" and "What was the last good book you read?" I have sent them to sites to find new books. We give them LOTS of choices to look through. We make our book shelves user friendly.
So how do you get people to read? You let them read what they want. I know, you HAVE to teach the novel. But are you teaching the literary parts of the novel or are you teaching that particular novel? All novels have the same parts--let the kids choose what novel. Give students time to read without having to do anything with the book.
In these days of high stakes testing, it is easy to make the excuse that we have to get all our curriculum in. But I believe if we let students read what they want, they will read. And, they will surprise us.