08 April 2010

How to keep our children reading -

An article written by John Holt entitled “How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading,” goes through multiple ways that teacher’s who teach reading actually drive our students away from it. As a teacher of reading, this was a hard article for me to read, especially when I found that I was beginning to agree with some of the things that Holt was saying.

First, teachers and parents have a tendency to want to push children to reading things that we think will make them look smart. For some reason, Tolstoy’s War and Peace has become a book that shows a child as gifted. So, parents and teachers automatically want children to read books like that. I still have not read War and Peace and I was an honor student throughout my schooling years. In high school, I hated reading classics. How many people can honestly say that they enjoyed reading The Scarlet Letter? Is it worth teaching that book? I’m going to pay for this remark, but I don’t think there is anything about teaching that book that makes our students better. The symbolism can be found in more interesting books, and there is no reason that we should force our students to struggle through the language. I think that the literary value of that book is not nearly worth the torture our children feel from it. So, why are we killing our students interest in reading by forcing them to read these books that we feel, as an intellectual community, have a specific value? Is this a rite of passage? As a teacher, I believe that we need to give more freedom to our children in the area of reading.

If you want your children or student to be interested in reading, allow them to read interesting matieral. I can not tell someone what they should be interested in. Parents can not tell their teenager what to be interested in. I should repeat that, but I’m not going to, because if you have a teenager then you know what I mean. If you give a child of any age the ability to choose what they want to read, whether it be a comic book, magazine, picture book, or novel, then they are more likely to want to read it. There are literary values to each type of reading.

Comic books and graphic novels have become increasingly popular, especially with boys (which is the hardest group to reach). Why should anyone keep them away from reading such a book? I have graphic novels in my classroom and they are the first to disappear. I have had teachers ask me why I allow my students to read such things, and I ask why not. Does a graphic novel have characters, conflict, themes, a plot line, figurative language, etc.? Yes! I have yet to find a graphic novel that lacks any part of this. Graphic novels also give you the visual element that must be followed in order to comprehend the story. This adds another thinking process into the comprehension level and is probably increasing the brain activity and higher level thinking that our children are receiving from this type of litearture.

Magazines suck everyone in. What is the first thing you grab at a Doctor’s office or on a place? It is the magazine that is on the table or in the cuff of the seat in front of you. Not only are magazines filled with non fiction writing (a genre most children say they hate), but they also allow a reader to explore things that they would not do get in another circumstance. These non fiction segments often peak an interest into researching further into that topic. If you notice that your child is consistently reading articles on skin care, why not suggest they take a look at books on the internet that will also hit that subject. Magazines can often spark the interest in someone to find books that will relate to the subjects that they enjoy reading about.

Lastly, if we give a child free reign to choose the fiction book that they want to read, then we are developing a trust with them and encouraging their desires. If a teen decides that they want to read an adult book, be careful telling them no. It would be smarter, in my opinion, to take that book and read it yourself and then discuss it with your teen rather than just saying no. A lot of books talk about drugs, sex, violence, etc., and teens are interested in those subjects. Reading and discussing is going to be a better route than forbidding. If we are consistently saying no to books and pushing them towards books that are not interesting to them, then we efficently kill any love of reading availble. So, a teacher’s advice to keep your children in love with reading is to allow them the option of reading what they choose without expecting them to read only a certain type of book, or shutting down their reading of literature that is not considered within the literary cannon.

More info about Jen and where she can be found:

Jennifer Miller is a devoted English teacher of both eighth graders and college students. As an teacher who cares deeply about her student's love of books, sharing her opinions about books has become a passion, so she recently started blogging publicly about what she reads at Kaydence's Book Blog.

Blog Address: Kaydence's Book Blog
Twitter username: @KaydenceCA

Currently Reading:

The Forest of Hands and Teeth By: Carrie Ryan
Fireworks over Toccoa By: Jeffrey Stepakoff

Must Reads (links back to her review):

The Book Thief By: Markus Zusak

Thank you SO much for writing up a Guest Post Jen! It was great and really you hit the nail on the head when it comes to getting kids to read! I’m sure I’m not the only one who agrees with what she has to say on this topic. Let’s hope after your post and information more will agree as well. Anyone have any comments they'd like to discuss about this topic please feel free, I'd love to hear what you guys think too.

For everyone out there, no matter your age.... as always, Happy Reading!

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