As a high school English teacher I believe one of my primary functions is to be a reading cheerleader. Yes, I have other classroom jobs, but the thing I am most passionate about is trying to turn my students on to the pleasures of reading (and writing). I often feel that we approach reading all wrong in the classroom. We read one book, dissect it, give students tests that ask them to recall stupid details and then get them to write an essay – often five paragraphs (don’t even get me started on that!) Where is the pleasure, the joy, then?
If a student is already an avid reader, they are probably more willing to tackle some of the decidedly dry texts found on the curriculum – which, I am shocked to report, are the SAME books I read in high school over 30 years ago! Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t read books together and talk and write about them, but I’m not sure that if that’s the only reading students do they are going to walk out of high school with a passion for reading.
This is something I think about every day. I work hard to talk about books, read out loud to my students, give them chunks of time to read for pleasure – without any strings attached – and put books directly in their hands. Today in class we’re going to do ‘Book Speed Dating.” Sell your book in 90 seconds. I dunno, maybe it won’t work – but it will be fun to try.