Sunday, April 4, 2010

Challenging Article on Reading in the Recent Phi Delta Kappan Journal

"The reading assigned to students today is almost identical to what students were assigned a generation ago. This is true not only for English classes, which see the same classic titles that earlier students avoided, but also for science, social studies, and other classes. The result? Students are turned off to reading.
When they are outside of school, young people read a wide variety of texts in many different media. But none of these texts are assigned in schools. When schools deny students access to so many kinds of texts, they impose a form of censorship and constrain students’ opportunities to learn. (Emphasis added)
If we want students to become lifelong readers, they must be surrounded with high-quality books they want to read. Schools should assign readings from magazines, graphic novels, newspapers, songs, and other forms of text. When schools broaden the types of reading they assign, they will bring immediacy and spontaneity to  students learning."

This is the summary of an article, which appeared in the April issue of Phi Delta Kappan, the journal of the national education honor society. The article challenges us to find ways to let kids read outside the boxes we tend to put them in.

Recently. Erik Berridge came to me with a great list of books he got from Sharilyn Sharf at Tam High, that she has her students choose and read for their World Cultures and Geography classes. It's a very challenging list and includes not only books about geography and cultures but also the historical background which kids should be encouraged to explore on their own. I've long thought that if we could have the kids choose one book in their 9th grade year and one in the 10th grade to read for social studies it would be beneficial for them in the long run. Both children and adults have gotten too used to just finding answers and not really reading in depth on a topic which they find interesting. The same challenge could be extended into the upper division classes (U.S. history and government and economics). Library circulation would soar, students vocabulary acquisition would be enhanced, and students would have the opportunity to focus on a single topic instead of scattering their mental focus all over the place.
Science is another area where kids could be challenged to read. There's so much good stuff being published and added to our library every year that there's no excuse for assigning the same old same old year after year.
In neither of these areas should we overlook fiction books, graphic novels, and other forms of literature including online literature. According to this article, in 1962 26% of our information came from print. That number is now 9%, with 30% coming from computer sources.

"If we want students who are readers, not just students who can read, we must surround them with high quality books they want to read. And these books should not be just for independent reading. They should be assigned and taught." I know that the Tam District tries harder than most to add contemporary titles to the book lists used in English classes but the process is cumbersome and sometimes leads to great new reads being missed or overlooked.

And another quote: "One of the most disheartening things about the reading students do in school is that it is so predictable. As students enter their classrooms each day, they already know what they’ll be reading: another novel similar to the last novel, another story out of their literature anthology, another chapter in the social studies textbook, another five-paragraph essay. When they leave school at the end of the day, they know the texts they’ll be reading the following day and the following year. How often are students genuinely and happily surprised by a new assigned reading?"

For those interested in pursuing this topic we've recently added the book Readicide to the library's professional collection. Check it out!

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