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28 June 2014 @ 06:51 am
Leisure reading  
NCTE and IRA have released a joint statement on Leisure Reading here: http://www.reading.org/Libraries/position-statements-and-resolutions/ps1082_leisure_reading.pdf. This is long overdue, of course, and is (I suspect) in part an answer to all of the emphasis on close reading and rigor and co,pled tests brought about by CCSS, something both organizations have embraced much to my chagrin. In any event, this positions statement has some terrific resources in the Reference section for those who have to defend allowing time for kids to read for pleasure at school.
The statement contains two guiding principle.

Principle I: "Readers should choose their own reading materials (Krashen, 2011). Students are better able to choose engaging and appropriate reading materials when teachers and family members scaffold their selection of leisure reading materials (Reutzel, Jones, & Newman, 2010; Sanden, 2014)."

Is anyone else bothered by this seeming contradiction? Kids should be given the freedom to pick their own materials but teachers and parents till need to be involved? Initially, I am fine with parents and teachers helping kids figure out how to select materials. But I do not think we need to scaffold often, especially if we have done a good job early on AND if we continue to model for kids and bring new books into the home/room and talk about them. If they ask for help, I am fine with providing it. But if want WILD READERS (see Donalyn Miller's READING IN THE WILD) then we have to permit kids to select what they want. And we really do need to abide by this idea that kids can self-select. Sometimes my former residents of the back bedroom read books beyond them and other times they selected books meant for younger readers. Career Girl read CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS well beyond elementary school because she loved seeing those zany characters and what they were up to. I had kids launching into 9th grade who still read James Howe's BUNNICULA books because they were "old friends" (their words not mine).

Principle II: "The benefits to students’ fluency, comprehension, and motivation from engaging in leisure reading are increased when teachers scaffold school-based leisure reading by incorporating reflection, response, and sharing in a wide range of ways that are not evaluated (Parr & Maguiness, 2005; Pilgreen, 2000; Reutzel, Jones, Fawson, & Smith, 2008; Walker, 2013) and when students’ home environments support their self-selected reading (Sonnenschein, Baker, Serpell, & Schmidt, 2000)."

I am a little hesitant about this principle as well. I have seen too many read alouds turned into lessons. I have seen way too many activities kill the leisure reading even in college students. One student almost wept with frustration as she was forced to stop at the end of every poem in OUT OF THE DUST to write in her book log. I think we need to proceed with caution here. Informal conferring and classroom talk and other activities might work here, but if there are too many THINGS that need to be done, how is it leisure reading let alone reading for pleasure.

So, if I were in charge of the world, what might this policy statement read?

Principle 1: Let all kids self select books for leisure reading (reading for pleasure, free reading, FVR, DEAR, etc.).

Principle 2: Surround kids with all manner of books and other reading materials.

Principle 3: Repeat steps 1 and 2.
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