professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Singular Text

There is a call for revamping reading (yes, again) and, this time, focusing on a select canon of texts. Every time I see such a call, I feel my world shrink once again. I grew up during a time when, once we hit high school, all texts in class were mandated by Someone. We never knew who that Someone was. These days the Someone tend to be people who decry contemporary literature and insist that reading the canon better prepares kids for college and career. Today, there was a piece in Ed Week that insisted kids who never read a text from the 1800s would never be prepared for college reading. That was such a disconnect for me.

Why does Someone think that college reading is about ancient texts, many of which have little or no connection to the lives of readers today. Now, do not get me wrong, I am not saying we ditch ancient texts completely. But I am questioning why Someone needs to read two hundred year old texts in order to be prepared for college. I spent most of my English courses in college reading the things I was forced to read in high school. And I have to admit that I got much more from the texts when I read them as an adult than I did on middle and high school. And I do not think that this is an experience unique to me.

Donalyn Miller was quoted in this article: "Mandating a text for an entire grade level or school undermines teachers' autonomy, and may not be reflective of the needs, interests, or abilities of the children they serve from year to year," Donalyn Miller, a veteran language arts teacher and the author of The Book Whisperer , a well-received pedagogical book that advocates using free-choice to inspire young readers, said in an interview. "Thought leaders in progressive English education would universally question this."

I question it as well. The time has come to end this mandating, this one book fits all, this it's good for you so just hold your nose and swallow it approach to books and reading. If you want to see ow well these approaches have worked, look at the number of adults who actually read. It is a number that shrinks along with the average # of books they read as well. Kids who went from reading with lots of choices to reading what Someone has decided is what they should read, there is a shrinking that takes place. A shrinking of love for books and reading, a shrinking of the worlds kids can access through books, a shrinking of the people readers might meet, a shrinking of empathy and so much more.

I want to EXPAND access and choice. Someone wants to shrink it. I lived in a small enough world as a kid; reading allowed me to see the larger world. Thank heavens for the expansion.
Tags: choice, shrinkage
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