According to Penny Kittle’s, Book Love, “Teenagers want to read-If we let them.” While this may be a revelation to many in a time where people are seeing students read less. Carol Gordon and Ya-Ling Lu, in thier article”I Hate to Read- Or Do I?” (2007) state “There is a downward trend in voluntary reading by youth at middle and high school levels over the past two decades.” With research showing this downward spiral, what are teachers to do about this continuing problem. Do teenagers really want to read, if we let them?
Students have a hard time finding books to read or knowing what they like to read. Many students are reading below grade level and are embarrassed to look for books because they’re afraid of what their friends might say. Other students are intimidated by the sheer volume of books in the library. They may not know how the library is set up and are embarrassed to ask for assistance. Or, in some schools, there might not be anyone to ask about the library. These issues perpetuate a situation that will continue to have dire consequences for our youth. Ultimately, the more students read, they better readers they become. So, let’s get these students reading…. anything!
According to Dick Allington in his book What Really Matters for Struggling Readers (2001), students who read a lot at their level in turn become better readers. The difficult thing for teachers is to create a balance of pleasure with challenge. In today’s environment, it seems teachers are focused on the challenge and have put pleasure to the side. If we want to create readers, we need to focus on the pleasure side and then build the challenge.
A students willingess to read is related to his skill level and his skills. According to Allington (2001), “Accuracy impacts comprehension.” That makes sense if you think about it. Students need to be able to understand what they are reading in order to enjoy it.
Reading the first two chapters of Penny Kittle’s Book Love, inspired me to change the way I was doing things in my own classroom. I have decided to give students ideas for books and more choices when selecting their books. I’ve created a Book Challenge Bingo Board with nine different options for choosing books to read. The instructions say “Read as many books from this card as you can this quarter. Search online fo rtitles for each of these awards and then check them out in our libary or Overdrive to read.” The students are also givben a list of sixteen different “activities” they can complete for each of the books they complete. These “activities” can be as simple as a Tweet to an author, or as complex as creating a Book Trailer for the book. I’ve spoken to a number of students in my classes today and they are all excited about the change. I’m excited too! I hope this creates an atomosphere where students are excited to read.