With a nearby school district wrestling with censorship issues, I thought now would be a good time to share a recent letter from a parent.
Instead of blanket reading policies, educators and parents should focus on fitting an individual book to an individual reader. We cannot encourage a reluctant reader to read if the book does not appeal to him any more than you can make me like math by forcing me do a worksheet of logarithms.
Sometimes the right book is about ponies and rainbows, and sometimes that book is going to be about drug dealers and f-bombs, as was the case in the book referenced in the letter above. One book does not fit all, no matter how cool the book. So if our goal is to engage kids, we will want to encourage them to buy in. Getting them to choose the book they want to read is an excellent start.
My classroom library is stocked with books I think kids will like. Then I take it one step further and do book talks during the year. I pop a few covers on a PowerPoint and give a 15-second overview of the books. Yep. I turn into a book salesman. And kids scramble for the books when I’m finished. Then I encourage parents to look at the books their kids choose.
Clearly, all classrooms cannot accomplish all their goals with reading anarchy where every kids reads exclusively whatever they want. There are Common Core goals, and Lexile levels, text complexity, classroom novels, thematic selections and a slew of whatever other things we have to incorporate into our plans on a daily basis.
However, if a goal is to get kids to want to read, we need to create opportunities for them to select things books which interest them.