The Power of Choice

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.

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(Image: pixabay.com)

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.

-RG

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15 thoughts on “The Power of Choice

  1. Um, okay seriously loved this post! Your writing is insane and I love it! From reading posts about this week’s articles, I think everyone understood that choice is the biggest takeaway and we need to incorporate it more in our classrooms. And I’m like you, I read the assigned readings to get through classes but that was it. But when I picked a book for myself, I could read it in a day because I wouldn’t put it down. When we have the choice to choose, we can pick books that we KNOW we’ll like. No one but us can fully understand what we like and no one should be forced to read something that was picked out by someone else. It’s a crime against reading. Great post!

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    1. Bre, your comment made my day. 🙂 Thank you so much for your kind words! After all of the reading, that is the one thing that stood out to me. If I’ve learned one thing this semester, it’s that assigned reading is not at all effective. I’d agree with you in saying that it’s actually a crime to readers everywhere. Thanks for the read! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. christianburesh

    We were given choices as children, but then assigned reading took over, so the motivation died over the years. I wonder how many students will be insular to my efforts.

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  3. I love the image of you walking across town with your nose tucked into a boom. Choice is everything to us. Like you said, we love having our options. We don’t take too kindly to bring forced into anything. Reading is no exception.

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  4. Choice is so important to young adults because they aren’t adults yet but they are on that threshold. They need some autonomy over their education or they rebel which is why required reading is not something young adults want to do. Give them choice and turn them into readers.

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    1. Yes! Exactly. Having the choice of what to read could make such a huge difference. That’s definitely something that I have learned from this class. Choice makes a difference. 🙂

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  5. I would consider myself a bit of a reader and I still hate assigned reading (even at my age). If we want students to read we have to stop forcing it down their throats. You may not be able to force a horse to drink, but you can always salt the oats.

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  6. Giving students the choice of what they read will create interest in reading for them! I was also given a lot of freedom through my life. I think children will make the right choices if you let them. Great blog post!

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    1. I couldn’t agree more! I think that if we allow students to pick what they read they will figure out what they do and don’t like, allowing them to find the perfect books for them. Thanks for the read, Marqui! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes. I agree. I loved reading so much as a child, but in high school it went way downhill. I had lost my spark. I am glad that despite having even less time I am starting to reignite my flame.

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    1. Exactly! Required reading just doesn’t cut it for high schoolers. My love definitely took a hit, but thankfully I was able to gain that back. So happy to hear that you are gaining it back, too!

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