Required Reading

I read this interesting article in the New York Times A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like.

The article talks about a teacher in Georgia who gives her students choices for what they read in class.

Here’s an excerpt about what some say about the results of this approach:

“Literacy specialists say that giving children a say in what they read can help motivate them. ‘If your goal is simply to get them to read more, choice is the way to go,’ said Elizabeth Birr Moje, a literacy professor at the University of Michigan. Ms. Moje added that choices should be limited and that teachers should guide students toward high-quality literature.

Though research on the academic effects of choice has been limited, some studies have shown that giving students modest options can enhance educational results. In 11 studies conducted with third, fourth and fifth graders over the past 10 years, John T. Guthrie, now a retired professor of literacy at the University of Maryland, found that giving children limited choices from a classroom collection of books on a topic helped improve performance on standardized reading comprehension tests.”

I honestly don’t remember a lot of the books that I read in my English classes. It didn’t help that most of my Advanced English teachers were witches—but that’s another story. I don’t think it interfered with my joy of reading though. Maybe this is because I was still reading two or three books that I chose from the library (mostly horror and science fiction).

baldwinBut I do specifically remember in my senior year when the Wicked Witch of English actually gave us a list and said that we could choose any book that we wanted. I specifically remember the book I chose: If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin. And I still remember that book vividly. Was it because I chose it? Maybe.

But I do like the idea of kids being able to choose some of the books they read. It can help them become life-long readers. Maybe a lot of the kids and teens think of books they read in class as “boring.” Maybe it turns them off from reading as adults. Giving the choices may help them enjoy books more.

You can read the New York Times article here.

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