Book club started early in my room this block. Why? Because kids asked for it to start. "Why wait until next block starts?" they asked. "Can we start early?" Um, let me check...I think we can manage that. When my partner in book club madness went around pitching the book, a good thing happened. We ran out of copies. Even after ordering five more books, we're still short. Kids are reading just to read.
This school year I have really been encouraging independent reading as has the other English teacher at my school. The result? Kids falling in love with reading. Here's what one non-reader, ELL student wrote in his course evaluation:
"More reading time is what the teacher should improve. The book I read in class has
encouraged me to read more books in life more than just looking at a computer screen."
When I probed a bit after reading this, I found out The Life We Bury was the first book this
guy had ever read in his life. He has been in the U.S. for eight years. Not once during the
reading process did I have to encourage him to read. He's hooked. How can I tell?
Because he asked for suggestions for other books to read. He even thinks I should
have kids read more books.
The thing is, what Penny Kittle and Donalyn Miller and many others propose is good advice.
Let students read books of choice rather than forcing them to read something they aren't
interested in. Chances are Spark Notes will get a lot of action if we force them to read
uninteresting books. I'd rather the choice be theirs. Sometimes I assign, but it's rare that
I make a student suffer through something they really dislike. I remember plowing through
Silas Marner myself in high school. I was a reader and I struggled to finish that tome.
It doesn't take much to offer choice. It can hook teens to read more. Book club is a
result of choice and exposing kids to things they may not pick up on their own.
Go ahead, let students decide what they want to read. It could make all the difference.