“If we expect the students in front of us to look to reading for pleasure and solace in their adult lives, we need to give them the gift of reading today. We need to create beautiful reading rooms with calm, uninterrupted reading hours. Above all we need to fill our bookcases with the best books available. I wouldn’t have attempted to read if my bedside didn’t boast the best novelists, journalists, historians, and poets. When we have the best books, and use them in thoughtful and well-informed ways, our children will need their favorite views out the window. Their reading will inspire them to pause and think deeply about their own lives and the lives of others. Isn’t that what reading is for?”
Writing through Childhood by Shelley Harwayne
This week my daughter is being introduced to a computerized reading program called “Raz Kids.” While I’m still waiting to see if it’s a choice and not mandatory, as a teacher who became familiar with reading programs like Accelerated Reader, I’m very concerned about the use of this program in creating life-long readers.
Reading in simplest terms is interaction with text. It is an understanding of the text read and taking it much deeper through connections, questions, inferences and evaluating how those words inform and change how we interact with life. You get much more out of it by participating than sitting on the sideline or in the audience. Reading involves action. But computerized programs, like Accelerated Reader, do not allow for kids to pause and think deeply. Instead it forces kids to sit on the sideline and watch.
Kids who are required to use programs like AR understand reading to be answering multiple-choice questions that someone else has deemed important. These simple recall questions are supposed to provide teachers with information about a reader’s understanding of the words on the page.
As I think about the desired conversation I want to have with student readers, I think of adult readers. Do they read a book and then go to take a multiple-choice quiz? Or do they sit and drill each other for short simple answers? I’ve never experienced this as an adult reader. As adults we read a variety of text and talk about what sticks out to us, or more importantly what a text means to our own lives.
Shelley Harwayne writes,
“I learned from Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain what it was like to fight for survival during the Civil War. . . I learned from Virginia Hamilton Adair’s poetry collection, Ants on the Melon, to look at the world with new eyes and insights. I learned from Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, to be ever so grateful to have left the hospital and ready to appreciate each day awe. . “
So let’s get back to reading that will inspire readers to pause and think deeply about their own lives and the lives of others. Instead of spending all of that money of glorified technology quizzes, purchase books and text that kids will want to and need to read. Get back to the heart of reading. Let kids interact with text.