Sunday, October 4, 2009

Choose Your Own Reading

What if you had a teacher that, instead of forcing books on your from a curriculum, let you choose which books you wanted to read? Pretty neat, huh? It's sort of this progressive movement that more and more teachers are getting into in order to fuel reading as opposed to stifling it by forcing students to read things they may not want to.

From a teaching perspective, school isn't about doing the things that you want. It's about learning. If students did only what they wanted, no one would know algebra. There is a method behind the madness of forcing cosine on young minds.

On the other side, though, in the English world, even as someone that loves reading, I cried on the inside when I had to get through books that I just couldn't get into. And that was through college. And, really, those that I was forced to read I didn't really get anything from. Nothing sunk in, I wasn't hit with any kind of profound insight. I'd have to read them again now in order to get that. And, in all honesty, I have more entertaining things to read.

If it were me teaching, I'd keep some of those unsavory works and force them upon my students, really, for their own good. It's the one time where you know you can shove in the "classic" reading and they actually have to do it. But I'd let them choose their own works as well. Why not? As if you can't pull deeper meanings from today's YA? Please. Properly dissected, you can learn anything from anything.

I'd want to keep students reading the same things for a portion of the time because working in a group dynamic will allow students different insight to the same works. They'll be able to get different views that they may not have been able to see on their own. Then I'd allow them to take those dissecting skills that they learned in their groups and apply it to the reading that they choose. Really, I don't see the harm.

Yeah, "fun" reading can be done anytime and school is supposed to be where the "hard" stuff is learned but if you screw up reading for kids young enough, they're not going to want to do it later in life. Equate reading to work and it ceases to be fun. Allow reading to be associated with fun and learning and it's beneficial to everyone.

How do you feel about that? If you're beyond school age, do you find a benefit to integrating personal choice into a teen's education? If you're in school, would your teachers allow something like this? Do they? Which books would you choose to read if given the choice?


Dani. said...

As a 15 year old sophmore, I'll share my own experiences with assigned vs. "you choose" reading in my Language Arts classes.

In my freshman class English class last year, we were assigned 4 books (Tuesdays with Morrie, Night, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Romeo & Juliet), one book for each quarter of the year. On Fridays my teacher would give us the whole hour to read a book of our choosing, which for an avid reader as myself was awesome!

This year as a Sophmore, the same holds true for the free choice reading Fridays, but as it is an Honors American Lit class rather than the standard 10th grade lit class, we read a lot more! By the end of the year we will probably have read 12(maybe more) assigned novels pertaining to whatever standard 10th grade Lit reads, and classic American novels.

We're also suppposed to keep track of what we read outside of the classroom, and write down the number of pages, and a sentence or two stating how you feel towards the book. This can get a bit tedious and sometimes annoying for me as I have to fill out my sheet every day, but as most of my peers dont read by any means as much as I do, I think its a good idea.

So while that is only my own personal experience, I like the direction my teachers have chosen towards assigned vs. "fun" reading.

(Hope that wasnt too long for you)

Shalonda said...

I allow my students to select their own books. Each month, I choose a genre and students may read any title that falls in that genre. Of course, they must have their book approved because I want to make sure it is appropriate for their reading level (not too high, nor too low). This is for their monthly independent book projects.

I've always allowed the students to choose what they read. Even when doing a novel study in the classroom, I provide a number of different titles and the students vote for their favorites and then are placed in small groups. I ensure the students that they will have the opportunity to read a book from their top 3 choice.

So far, allowing students choice has worked, and I've seen lots of benefits by doing so.

Dannie said...

As a freshman in high school, I tend to be very outspoken about these things. You have to look at it from our point of view---forced by law to attend these (what we consider) prisons and learn things that we neither have interest in nor believe we will ever need. Though I love reading, more of the books we read in class (I'm lookin' at you, The Scarlett Letter) come across as more pointless words that are just another burdon on our backs. We feel like we have no say in anything we do, and we're being primed for a future that isn't ours. Now, I know picking our own books would probably not be what the school system would deem, "necessary" but to us, it's everything--for once in our lives choosing what we're learning. It would definetly make me more attentive if I got to give my two cents in instead of just listening to my teacher drabble on about Hester Pryme.

That's what I think, anyway.

Donna said...

Awesome answers, guys! And no answer is ever too long! I wish I had that kind of choice when I was in school. I read for fun all the time but it was irrelevant to anything we ever did in the classroom. All of my teachers (that I can remember, anyway) stuck quite rigidly to whatever curriculum they were working off of.

What I understood of how books were chosen in my school, all of the teachers had one master list for each grade to chose what books to be read. Basically if a teacher was last on the list for choices, she'd get whatever was left in the store closet. We ended up with some craptacular books that way.

L.H. Parker said...

And why didn't teachers think of this back when I was in school?! I would have killed for a chance to select my own reading materials back in middle school. My eighth grade year consisted of morbidly depressing books like "Hiroshima" and "Into Thin Air." I can seriously start tracking the start of my teenage fucked-up-ness from that school year.

Rebecca Herman said...

I think this is an awesome idea. I hated most of the books I read in school, and if that had been my first exposure to reading, I likely never would have developed a love of reading... but my parents introduced me to books from a very young age, took me to libraries and bookstores to pick out books I wanted, which I think gave me my love of reading. But many kids don't have parents who are dedicated that way so school assigned reading is their first real exposure to reading... and if it's all books most kids or teens don't enjoy, they may associate reading with that and never appreciate it as a form of entertainment. So I think letting kids pick some of their books for school is a good idea since they are then more likely to enjoy reading.

Becky said...

I'm 17, and in my English Lit classes we have set books chosen by the teacher, which we get no say in. Anything that we choose (that is, they tell use the genre and we read what we want) is supportive reading for the topic - it won't really come into the exam/coursework. Luckily the books this year are better than last year's or the year before's.

I've always read loads, but I'm the same as you, Donna - when you have to try and read something you have no interest in, it's difficult to get through. And I find that that when I write about them it's all quite forced - if I find a book boring it's hard to make it come across as interesting.

I think it'd be great for students to pick books! I can think of some great essay ideas for current YA books...

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