Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What are kids reading?

One of my favorite parts of being in the library is book report time. It is not because I like to see students being tortured but because I get to push students into reading some of the best books in the library, books they would not normally take out.  For example, in May when the fourth graders were selecting books for their fantasy books reports one of best readers came to me with the book that had a brightly colored paperback cover and an author I've never heard of. While I love reading new things there are so many great fantasy books for her. After sitting with her for less than 5 minutes she could not decide between "James and the Giant Peach", "The Borrowers", and "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh". 

While I touch many students each school year this way, I always wonder what they reading. Hey my motto is "as long as you're reading". While I don't like them to take out 2 World Record, Lego, Captain Underpants, or similar books at a time, they know I just want them reading. 

This week a read a related blog post on NPR's Monkey See blog, "What Kids Are Reading, In School And Out". The article was easily relatable even with its issues. Are we as teachers hindering the students by allowing them to read whatever they want. No!

First, accelerated reader is not the best source. While my district doesn't use it, yet, I can't imagine it being an accurate representation of a students comprehension level. If/when we do adopt AR, I will not level my library in fear of students coming in looking for leveled books instead of "good" books. "The Hunger Games" on a fifth grade level?! Maybe for vocabulary, sentence length, etc., but what about content. Clearly AR doesn't factor that in. 

The article should have focused on the fact that students aren't reading outside of school! If I can student interested in reading and its at a book below their level I'm encouraging them to take it out. Every year I do a battle of the books with second graders using advanced picture books and I read Chris Van Allsburg's "Just A Dream" to third graders to remind the students that picture books are for all ages! Just keep reading I tell them!

As teachers it is our responsibility to introduce students to the classics books and help them decipher, understand, and relate. If schools really have stopped assigning these books then the article does make a good point. Maybe I'm being naive or maybe I'm just optimistic but I find it hard to believe a student can go through a public school system without reading Shakespeare and the classics.  

One of my summer reading books is "the Book Whisperer" by Donalyn Miller. (My summer reading list will be a different post.) I'm sure ill have a lost more to say after I read the book but my summer just started today. 

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