According to a new study in a Washington Post article:
At a time when more authors are writing more books for young people, fewer children are reading for pleasure. A recent study by the National Endowment for the Arts showed that the percentage of 13- to 17-year-olds who read daily for fun dropped from 31 percent to 22 percent between 1984 and 2004. The amount they read for school has not changed.
Oddly enough, this is what a group of middle and high school teachers discussed at a recent alignment meeting. My position, however, was quite unpopular with the district office leaders.
I explained that I feel that students are not taught to read for enjoyment. Every time we (teachers) assign a text to read, we quiz, test, and analyze the life right out of it. Apparently, some writers and teachers agree with me:
Some educators and authors say they believe the emphasis on standardized tests in the No Child Left Behind education law has made teachers less willing to experiment with new or unusual books. “Kids are getting less and less choice, and it’s sad,” said author Jon Scieszka, the U.S. National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, adding that his son once saw reading as only a school activity.
When do we allow students to read simply for the pleasure of the activity? I have one book each year in my Sophomore Honors class and one in my American Literature class where the students simply read for pleasure. With my Honors class, I generally let the students read Ender’s Game or The Princess Bride for pleasure, which they don’t realize until we finish. I do the same for one book in American Literature, either One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or The Crucible or a novel of their choosing.
With each we use a fish bowl to simply discuss what they enjoyed, remembered, connected with, or simply wanted to discuss. They lead the discussions while I observe unless a question is directed to me. It’s great. No tests. No quizzes. No projects.
I think I’d like to incorporate something else. Graphic novels? Blogs? Online magazines? Even comics? Maybe I’ll just let everyone bring what they want to read. I’m not sure, but I’m thinking I want to allow the students to read for pleasure more often.