As the article below iterates, some schools nationwide are forming reading workshops which allow students the freedom to select their own books rather than the traditional approach of assigning a classic that the entire class reads together. Critics of this approach are concerned that children won’t be exposed to classic literature because they’ll gravitate toward books that are trendy or popular.
This debate begs the question: What is the goal of reading in school and for that matter what is the goal of educating our children? Educational reformer John Dewey said, “The most important attitude that can be formed is that of a desire to learn and go learning.” As most educators agree, a passion for learning isn’t something you have to inspire kids to have; most children are innately curious. Author Alfie Kohn writes, “Anyone who cares about this passion will want to be sure that all decisions about what and how children are taught, every school-related activity and policy is informed by the question: “How will this affect children’s interest in learning, and promote their desire to keep reading, and thinking and exploring?”
Several months into the experiment, the English teacher at Jonesboro Middle School in a south Atlanta suburb says, “I feel like almost every kid in my classroom is engaged in a novel that they’re actually interacting with. Whereas when I do ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,” I know that I have some kids that just don’t get into it.”
Perhaps a middle-road approach could be implemented where children are allowed to choose books, and so is the teacher. It’s best to teach reading in a way that mixes free choices with great literature. We want to trust students enough to give them some leeway in making decisions at school, which might help promote a lifelong love of reading while also exposing them to some of the reading “greats” from throughout time.
A New Assignement: Pick Books You Like
By MOTOKO RICH
Published: August 29, 2009
The New York Times
JONESBORO, Ga. — For years Lorrie McNeill loved teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Harper Lee classic that many Americans regard as a literary rite of passage.
But last fall, for the first time in 15 years, Ms. McNeill, 42, did not assign “Mockingbird” — or any novel. Instead she turned over all the decisions about which books to read to the students in her seventh- and eighth-grade English classes at Jonesboro Middle School in this south Atlanta suburb.
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