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27 May 2014 @ 10:21 am
Don't follow us!  
I wonder if some of our reformers have been making their way to England of late. When I see headlines such as the one from the Guardian, I think they must have decided to follow our example and gut reading until it is something no one wants to do willingly. CHILDREN ARE NO LONGER ENCOURAGED TO READ FOR PLEASURE (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/10852437/Michael-Rosen-Children-are-no-longer-encouraged-to-read-for-pleasure.html) was the thrust of a recent speech n=by Michael Rosen, the former Children's Laureate. In his own words: "We know the arguments about why choosing books, looking at them, reading some and maybe not others, is so important. And yet there is this strange inertia about encouraging reading for pleasure." Rosen points to testing, an emphasis on phonics and decoding, and the other mechanics which he believes ought not even to be called reading. And I agree. I suspect you do as well or else why would you be here in the first place?

Close reading, exemplar texts, programmed learning all add up to do the same stateside, I fear. We are sucking every last bit of joy from reading for many kids. What happens when the reformers succeed in narrowing what is taught and how it is taught? Kids will turn off and drop out sooner. They will eschew books in favor of other media. They will surely be less empathetic for empathy is often learned in books. They will need constant guidance as they never learned how to select texts for themselves. If this sounds dystopic, it should.

We are seeing the casualties already. Poetry is absent from much of what is going on in the CCSS. Here is a post from a parent about the latest batch of CCSS assessment: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cynthia-wachtell/no-poetry-on-my-sons-comm_b_5223744.html?&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000023. What will fall next? Will graphic novels begin to wane as they are impossible to exile and level accurately?

I have been taken to task by some for my unrelenting criticism of CCSS. I do not repent this stance. Choice of texts is paramount to creating readers. See Donalyn Miller's READING IN tHE WILD for a terrific discussion of the need to allow choice. Community is not built by everyone reading the same text. Rather, it is made larger by all of us sharing the books that worked for us and the ones that did not. I have a broad community when it comes to books and reading. I have picked up books at the recommendation of many colleagues and friends, books I might not have elected to read on my own. I might have missed some gems were it not for Paul Hankins, Colby Sharp, Katherine Sokolowski, Karin Perry, and countless others.

I am encouraged to read for pleasure daily because I am part of a reading community. As the summer approaches, how can we keep the community of readers intact for our students? How can we ensure they are reading for pleasure and that they have the choice of which book or books to read?
 
 
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