Yesterday I mentioned the article by William J. Broz on Not Reading. I posted a little poll (mainly to try out the poll feature on wordpress) to gauge the completion rate of other people. I actually already know the answer with regards to my students, though. Many of them would have checked the “Books?” option of the poll.
Another issue I have is the equity issue with regards to this sort of non-reading. Our savvy, advantaged students become adept at using the internet, paper purchase sites, and other resources to not read. Ironically, many of these same advantaged students are the ones who are most capable of actually doing the reading. To exacerbate the issue, these students are so very, very good at not reading that many teachers go through the year oblivious to the fact that their students aren’t reading. Students spark discussion and provide insightful comments on symbolism, theme, imagery, metaphor, characterization and other literary devices. Sadly, the comments are, all too often, freshly gleaned from a quick read of Sparknotes just prior to class. These students end up with high marks and are favorites of the teachers. Meanwhile our less savvy students struggle through the books, feeling dumb and inadequate to the task, and receiving low grades for their misery because they don’t have the knowledge or resources to compensate for their not reading.
In the past few years, I’ve tried to counter this by allowing students to self-select a majority of their texts. I let them engage in independent reading and book clubs with texts they selected. While I definitely had success turning non-readers into readers, I felt that the rigor component of the reading was missing. I had students who were perfectly capable of reading a book like The Kite Runner instead choosing to read The Lightning Thief or an Alex Rider book.
This year I tried to move back to more rigorous required reading with limited success. The students, once again, didn’t read. After reading the article, though, I have some new ideas about tackling the reading issue with my students.