Thursday, October 1, 2009

what book got you hooked?

There was an interesting article in the New York Times recently, called "Where Does a Love of Reading Come From?" I saw the link on Mel's blog and wanted to share it, as I agreed with many of the points that were brought up. The article discusses responses to another article, called "A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like," where a seventh and eighth grade teacher outside of Atlanta, GA didn't assign books as usual, but instead, let her students pick what they'd like to read. This approach is "part of a movement to revolutionize the way literature is taught in America’s schools." There are similar workshops going on in other schools across the country, of varying degrees. Many say that having the entire class all read the same book, can bore students, some being unable to understand the theme, etc. Instead, if they can choose what they'd like to read, it can help them to build a lifetime love of reading, something that is very important, in my humble opinion!

Of course, critics argue that students are unlikely to pick the classics, and are more likely to gravitate towards the trendy books, such as the Twilight series (which I have avoided, for the record!). In high school, I remember assigned reading lists for the summer. I can't recall everything that I had to read, though I can remember a few of them. I know I had to read 1984 for freshman year and I hated it. I had to read The Scarlett Letter at one point too. At the moment, the others are escaping me, but there were at least three books each summer. I liked some and disliked others, which is common, I would think.

I can certainly see both sides of this article. I think that it is important to find a balance. Reading can be fun, but should also be a challenge. I feel as though I read a fairly wide range of things, but still try to look outside of my normal finds, in order to read something new, something I don't know much about. I have a few books by Carl Sagan, one of my heroes, and though I don't understand much about cosmology and astronomy, I find his work fascinating and try to interpret what I can. Side note- I cried when I learned that he had passed away. It was my junior year of high school and I remember running into my chemistry teacher's classroom to tell him the news. My point here is, that reading can be enjoyable, when the effort is made.

I do think that it is so, so important to encourage children to read and to develop a love for books and reading. Related to this, one of my favorite shows, Reading Rainbow, went off the air recently, which I find to be tragic. Too many children will miss the opportunity to watch this amazing show.

I will be following this story, to see where it goes and if many other schools try this approach. It could have some really positive results, if implemented properly, and I hope that teachers can pull it off.

What did you have to read for summer reading? Did you enjoy the books or not? If you had a choice, what would you have read? Where did you get your love of reading and what was your favorite book growing up?


Melanie said...

Thanks for linking to me! Obviously you know many of my thoughts on this issue since I just wrote two posts about it. In regards to assigned summer reading though: I remember feeling really resentful about the five novels I was assigned to read over the summer before my senior year. I've always loved to read, but for some reason having my summer reading dictated to me didn't sit well. So, in the end, yes, I do think teachers should continue to assign the classics while in school, but students should also have some time to choose their own reading. Most libraries have great summer programs that encourage kids to read but don't require them to read certain books.

Anonymous said...

on one hand i want to say "yes, yes, brilliant" on the other hand i think what a disservice. kids need to be encouraged to expand their minds... not just read what THEY want to read. sure, i read a lot of books i hated or just had zero interest in(i use the term "read" lightly as i skimmed most of those) but then again i was exposed to books i never would have read otherwise and love love loved them.
i remember one from HS, something about stones and a river. it was a great book about a little person and i can't tell you much more about it but i remember thinking "wow, that was a great book" i actually read the whole thing, and was interested in it. considering my only reading interests at the time were Cosmo and Glamour that impressed me.

Jennifer said...

I loved reading growing up. As soon as I could read, I would read everything available to me. Then in high school/middle school I stopped. Cold Turkey! I didn't even entirely read assigned books because Spark Notes always got me through. Bad I know, but I always got A's regardless. haha! Now that I am older, I love reading again. I am finishing the Harry Potter series now, and I am planning to read my way through Jane Austen's novels. She is such a wonderful writer!

Rachel H. said...

I used to love Reading Rainbow! It was always one of my favorites!

Black Labs and Lilly said...

I loved to read from an early age, so I never minded summer reading, although right now I can't recall a single book that I was required to read. I'm going to call my mom and ask tonight!

Maxie said...

I kind of wish this had been going on when i was in 8th grade. We were forced to read books I ended up hating (grapes of wrath, heart of darkness, the jungle) and it made me avoid reading for pleasure until a few years ago. Hopefully her tactic works.

Shoshanah said...

The program I was in from 3rd grade till 5th really emphasized reading. Every day after lunch we'd have 15 minutes of free reading. We could read whatever we wanted as long as we were reading. After that our teacher would read to us. I know in 3rd grade we read through most of Roald Dahl's books, and I remember our 5th grade teach reading us The Cay. We still had required reading, which we were tested on. But we weren't ever tested on the reading we did for fun, which only helped to make it seem like something fun to do.