Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Required Reading Vs. Choice

A couple weeks ago I came across this blog entry about reading and the power of choice. I really enjoyed it and quickly shared it on FB.

Then I clicked on the comments that were on the original FB post and was surprised to see an angry one from a secondary teacher who felt attacked by the writer as a teacher who uses required reading. While I could follow the person's train of thought, I think she missed the point the writer was making.

My understanding of required reading is this: We require students to read classic literature to create common cultural references. We require students to read one piece so that we can teach them analysis and about symbolism and other skills with a text everyone can relate to.

There's nothing wrong with those things. But many people will tell you that they stopped reading for fun when they became overwhelmed by things they were required to read for school. Many "readers" talk about how nice it is to finish college and get to read "whatever I want!"

Choice matters.

This is one of the reasons I've never joined/started a book club. If I have managed to carve out time to read, I want to use it on something I'm going to like - something in a style I prefer or that has a plot that has intrigued me.

I think there is a place for both. I know that when my son's teacher read a Hank Zipzer book to her class, all the books I have from the series in the library were checked out, many for the first time ever. This teacher exposed her students to material they might not have tried otherwise. This classroom "required" reading was a benefit to the students.

Over Christmas break, I had to coerce my son to finish a book that he had 95% read before break began. He didn't resist because he didn't like it, but he had already taken an AR quiz on it and in his mind, the book had served its purpose. He wasn't compelled to finish anymore. But the day I bought him a new book in a Lego series he enjoys, he was reading every spare moment until he finished it. I no longer had to cajole him into picking up a book - he did it willingly.

Choice matters. I hope we as parents and as educators never forget that.

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