When I was young, I was taught the power of choice. I got to choose what I wore to school and what I watched before bed (Full House, in case you were wondering). As I grew up, I got to choose what sports and school organizations I was a part of. I was able to choose how I filled my spare time after I finished my homework each day. I got to choose where I went to college, and I am still making choices today (such as binge watching CSI:NY and not doing laundry). The point of all of this is that my choices allowed me to take responsibility and fully love what I am doing because I got to choose it. Why, then, shouldn’t we let our students choose?
This week, I got to read a lot of wonderful articles that centered on how we can get students to read more. Or, maybe more truthfully, to read at all. It’s no secret that students today don’t read the assigned materials; it’s just way easier to simply SparkNote the book that they were told to read. How do we get our students to read more? How do we truly motivate our kids to read for a deeper meaning and not just read to get through an assignment?
I think that it should be every teacher’s mission to get his or her students to read more and deeper. Teachers want each and every student to be an effective reader that can hone their skills and develop them further. The main question is how do we make this happen? Although this is something that will need to be worked at, I believe that it is possible. According to Phyllis S. Hunter’s article, Raising Students Who Want to Read, “one of the main stumbling blocks that can prevent children from becoming skilled readers is a lack of motivation.” Her article, along with the others, really got me thinking about ways that we can get students to become motivated to read more and enjoy it. After reading, my main thought was that we must let them choose.
Growing up, I loved to read. I read voraciously and excitedly; I simply couldn’t get enough of books. I would read during class after I finished my assignment and while walking across town to get home (I don’t really recommend this one. I definitely almost got hit a few times). Yes, I really did read a ton; but I read this much because these books were ones that I was able to choose. They weren’t assigned to me, and I didn’t read them because I had to. I read them because I loved to read. I loved to get into the minds of all of my characters and really walk in their shoes for a bit. I read my assigned readings, but I wasn’t passionate about them. I read them to get through the classes. This is something that I believe absolutely must change in our schools today.
By allowing our students the choice of books that they read, we are motivating them to read. I don’t know about you, but I always feel more inclined to read a book of my choice than one that has been assigned to me. All teachers want their students to be effective readers; the more that we can get students to read, the further they can progress in the future:
Effective readers aren’t just people who’ve learned how to read. They’re students who are motivated to read, because they’ve discovered that reading is fun, informative, and interesting. Motivated readers want to read. And the more they read, the more they can develop their skills. If there are signs of reading difficulty, we can intervene to get students back on track.
Let’s allow our students to choose. Let’s allow them to grow and learn. Let’s allow them to surround themselves in a reading utopia like the one that Jim Bailey discusses in his article. More than anything, let’s allow them to fall in love with books again, because books provide so much more than 10 points on an AR quiz.
More than anything, I want all students to have opportunities to rise above the norm, and maybe, just maybe, we will see many more students, not just our struggling ones, immersed in books they love, and thinking about their reading in ways we’ve never imagined. Their engagement will improve. Their growth will astound us. They will develop as critical thinkers, accomplished writers, and as empathetic individuals ready to take on the challenges of college and their world.