Kids are telling us. They're not reading because they HATE the way we're making them read. If we let them choose what they read, they'll read. Why aren't we smart enough to figure out how to teach the curriculum thru the books they pick? I don't get it.
Aren't these kids smart to figure out that if they listen to the discussions they'll know enough to pass the tests? What does that say about our programs? So doesn't this all mean that our English classes are teaching our kids how to read Spark Notes or listen very closely to class discussions.
Is this what we are intending on teaching? Can't we do better?
I love to read. I love to talk about books. I can relate to what these students are saying because I usually hate what someone else makes me read. But if I'm given a choice about what I read within a given set of topics, I will do a good job that well exceeds what I would have been asked to do.
This year I made my students read a book each month in science and social studies. They hated it at the beginning because they didn't know how. It was hard for them. But they got better and better. They picked bigger and harder books. And they talked about the books in more and more sophisticated ways. I didn't tell them what titles to read...I only vetoed books that were too far below their abilities and/or off topic (they had to be somewhere within the earth and physical science realms which is HUGE). By the end of the year, they had favorite authors and topics and they would return to those....
Up from an average of having read 1 nonfiction book in 5th grade, most of my students read at least 10 books this year. That's 2 more on average than they had to read. Plus many of them fell in love with Popular Science magazine. I think they would have read more magazines if I had had access to them...but with dwindling budget cuts, I don't have magazines like I used to have.
I know this is a hard topic, but we need to listen to students when they are this honest with us. I think this is very hard to hear information and it is very valueable. Now what will we do with it? Hopefully not just keep teaching the way we've always taught.
What changes could you make? What changes could you imagine your grade level making or your school? would your district dare take this topic up for discussion at a board meeting or at the next district level English meeting?