I ran across this quote in the church bulletin yesterday. Sometimes it is eerie how my reading life intersects with my Sunday routine. I love this concept of roots and how roots support flowers. If we want our kids to bloom as readers, if we want them to develop readers' hearts and minds and roots, then we need to do all we can to read as widely as we can. Some of my colleagues are challenging themselves in a "reading gap" goal: to read in those forms and formats and genres that they would normally eschew. I called that "reading outside of your comfort zone" in NAKED READING. It began for me when I was teaching middle school. My colleagues Bob Seney and Lois Buckman and I were using Terry Ley's DIRECTED INDIVIDUALIZED READING (DIR) where we read books recommended by each of our students and then conferred with them about their reading.
For Bob, DIR meant reading Sweet Valley High and Babysitter's Club. For me and for Lois, DIR meant reading Piers Anthony and other fantasy novels. We were willing to read outside our comfort zone because the reward was great: kids read and read more because they knew that they could talk to someone else who had read that same book. Moreover, Ley's approach puts the onus on the kid to lead the conference about the book. And kids had free choice for the books they read and added to our TBR stacks, too. Here is an article from 1980 about the importance of choice: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CFoQFjAF&url=http%3A%2F%2Fscholarworks.wmich.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D2244%26context%3Dreading_horizons&ei=ovrqUMmaE-eK2QWf7IG4CA&usg=AFQjCNEvbxV4x081wXkG-Ct9g38VVn1tjQ&sig2=WXnkT_hWgVexwCnGELZifA&bvm=bv.1355534169,d.b2U. And here is the salient quote:
Freedom of Choice
But listening and oral language activities can only serve as first steps toward children's own active participation in reading. This raises the question of what should they read? Children should be encouraged to read the literature they enjoy. Too often we teach what we enjoy ourselves rather than recognizing what is enjoyable for the child. The child still possesses that sense of wonder which we as adults have largely lost, and this explains the often inscrutable (to us) delight which children demonstrate in literature we sometimes find bizarre, obscure, or silly. But, by recognizing the need for children to read literature which they like, we are not encouraging the development in children's minds of some kind of literary slum. Rather, we are recognizing that if children's literature is to serve as the basis for the development of more refined literary taste, it must in the first instance be enjoyable.
This quote is from a 1980 journal. Seems as though we keep revisiting familiar territory, right? I include it here to make one final point: we need to address our own reading goals and gaps if we ant to be able to guide students in setting their own goals and minding their gaps. Happy planning and planting, folks.