In this blog, and in every media interview, I often lament that students don’t read for pleasure. If you’re also interested in this topic, I suggest you read The Book Whisperer, a blog in Teacher Magazine by Donalyn Miller, who writes about how to inspire and motivate student readers. Here’s an excerpt from a recent entry:
When I have denounced teaching whole-class novels in past entries, the comments I received from readers spanned a range of emotions from hearty agreement to derision. I feel emotional about this topic, too, so let’s take emotion out of the equation and face some truths:
No one piece of text can meet the needs of all readers. A typical heterogeneous classroom may have a range of readers that spans four or more grade levels. It is impossible to find a book that is at an instructional level for all of these students.
Reading a whole class novel often takes too long. Planning a month or more of instruction around one text replaces a lot of time students could be reading more books on a wider range of topics. It takes even a slow reader only a few weeks to read a book at their reading level. Do the math.
Laboring over a novel reduces comprehension and denies students the ability to fall into a story by breaking books into chapter-bites. No reader, outside of school, engages in this piecemeal method of reading.
Students’ interests in what they choose to read are ignored. Reading becomes an exercise in what the teacher expects you to get out of the book they chose for you, a surefire way to kill all motivation to read– other than to complete assignments.
Many novel units are stuffed with what education gadfly, Michael Schmoker, calls, “Language Arts and Crafts”, extensions and fun activities which are meant to motivate students, but suck up days of time in which the students are NOT READING OR WRITING.