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19 March 2016 @ 06:27 pm
Lighting the Fire  
Lit Up by David Denby has been making some waves. Here is a link to the NPR article singing its praises: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/03/08/467970342/yes-you-can-still-teach-kids-to-love-books. The reviews are mixed. I, too, have some mixed feelings about a film critic basing his book on his observations of 3 classrooms and teachers. From these observations, he asserts that it is never too late to create readers. I agree with that premise. However, he seems to also believe that readers, real readers, are those who tackle classic texts. And he also seems to believe that there is some sort of magical method to motivating readers. Here is where I disagree. While there might be a best way to build a fire in the Boy Scout manual, there is no one way to build a fire for reading.

And I guess I wish i could invite Mr. Denby to visit more than 3 classrooms to see the myriad of ways teachers are building and lighting fires. I want him also to read more widely than his favorite western classics (the subject of another of his books) and perhaps take a look at the wealth of children's and YA books available for reading. I want him also to spend more time in classrooms and schools as someone actually involved in the teaching and learning. I want him to stop mouthing the poular reformist stats about the dreadful state of reading in American.

Most importantly, I want Denby to read this: http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/2015/02/the-impact-of-assigned-reading-on-reading-pleasure-in-young-adults/#more-282. Stacey Creel examines the research on the impact of assigned reading on reading for pleasure. Her concluding paragraph should be posted on each and every wall of the school: "Modeling reading, sharing books with students, and giving students opportunities to share their choices are instrumental components of encouraging reading. In the case of this research, self-selection had a significant effect on whether or not students enjoyed the books they read for school. Since most students have access to classroom and school libraries, it is important that these collections appeal to their reading interests and offer a variety of resources to support self-selection."

Want to light a fire: gather the kindling (the research), add some solid fuel (books) and touch a match to it all (matching books and readers, maybe?). Sit in the light and warmth. Enjoy.
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