Over the past 24 years in education, I have developed a philosophy of reading that goes against the grain more and more in this age of Common Core, information literacy, family literacy, and all the other literacy buzz words. Here are some situations that I’ve witnessed over the years both as a teacher and a librarian:
- A teacher getting rid of any personal classroom library books if they don’t have an accompanying Accelerated Reader test.
- Requiring students to read 30 books per semester outside of books read for classroom assignments.
- Forcing students to check out books in the library based on reading range. Books deemed too high or too low are not allowed.
- Schools reducing library funding to less than $300 per year for new books.
I could post many more, but I thought I’d stick with the first situations that came to my mind. All four scenarios are joy-killers. Let the rant begin…
Situation #1 – The obvious one here is that some wonderful books were tossed aside just because they didn’t have an AR test. Really? Since when should we let a test decide what we provide as reading material for our students. Oh, wait…that’s what our state does with all of the testing it requires. We teach to the test. Okay, so maybe this behavior hasn’t been modeled well for teachers. But in any case, leave the books there!!! You never know which book will impact a student notwithstanding its accompanying AR test. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing reading testing programs and other standardized testing. Moderation is the key.
Situation #2 – Seriously, I know a classroom of students who are currently required to read 30 books per semester. If you read a book with 400 pages, it counts as two books. I know a student who was reading a book with 377 pages. This student stopped halfway through the book and didn’t finish it because it was taking too long to read. There was a fear of not meeting the goal, so the book was set aside in favor of reading a shorter, less interesting book. I commented that the book was within a mere 23 pages of the 400 page promise of having it count. I thought the teacher would make an allowance. Nope. It would have only counted for one book. This particular student loved to read from an early age. Albeit the student reads slowly, but the comprehension level is high which earned the student a spot in an honors program. The student no longer loves to read. Reading is seen as a chore and is no longer enjoyable. I am crushed beyond belief.
Situation #3 – In my particular district, we teach Guided Reading and Self-Selected Reading in an instructional block for grades K-6. Teachers choose what the students will read during Guided Reading in order to frame instruction. In Self-Selected Reading, teachers choose the books that go into the tubs. The students can choose what to read from the tubs, but the choice ultimately belongs to the teacher who fills the book tubs. So, would it not seem appropriate to let students choose what will be checked out in the library? Granted, in the higher grades, we have students working on various projects where they may need to check out books based on the project. However, can they check out other books for recreational reading? Of course! So why in the world do we have teachers who say “No, you can’t check out that book. It’s too easy.” Or, “No, you can’t check out that book. It will be too hard for you.” By golly, let the kid figure it out for themselves.
Librarians are guilty of this as well. I once had an 11th grade student who was reading through the Black Stallion series just for fun. He was ranked first in his class, graduated as valedictorian, and is now doing exceedingly well in college. While taking several AP classes, he just wanted a book to kick back and enjoy. A fellow librarian commented that he shouldn’t be reading books that low anymore. “Why the heck not?”, I asked. As adults, do we ever kick back and read fluff? Yes, all the time! So what harm is there in letting a teenager enjoy a book about a horse.
Situation #4 – I will be the first one to admit that my particular district has been great with funding. Yes, my budgets have dropped, but they still provide us with an opportunity to spend at least the recommended amount per student. I’ve spoken with a librarian who had a school similar in size to mine and had a $200 budget. Another librarian was in a large urban district where each school was given approximately $300 to purchase books each year. Seriously? You can buy new athletic gear for sports teams, spend oodles of money on new iPads, but you only have a $300 book budget when it’s a researched and proven fact that the school library success is directly tied to student academic success. Those districts should be ashamed. Again, let me reiterate, my district does not fall in this last situation.
Okay, my rant is finished…for today. I’m ready to head to school with a smile on my face and try to encourage kids to find something they like to read whether it’s chick lit, a graphic novel, a military book, or maybe even a book about a black horse that saved lives. Onward and Upward…
Currently reading: The Summer I Became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller