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16 June 2015 @ 09:05 am
Picking and Grinning  
I do not know why I am evoking an old sketch from "Hee Haw," but I suspect it has something to do with a post on my Facebook feed the other day. Book Riot has formed a new "club" as follows: http://bookriot.com/2014/06/04/join-now-riot-read/. For $30 a month, they will pick a book, members will read it, and there will be a discussion. No, no, a thousand times no.

You see, it is all about choice. If I were to join a (rather pricey) book club, I would want to have some discussion about what we might elect to read. I would want to have some choices along the way. And I would want the option to read it in print, in eBook, or in audio as well. I would want the group to be intimate enough that it would form a community. Does this seem as though it is all about me? It is. And it is all about choice.

There is plenty of research out there about choice. Dick Allington's article (http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar12/vol69/num06/Every-Child,-Every-Day.aspx) remains my favorite.

And yet, despite the research, choice is largely absent from too many programs, classrooms, schools. There is this program http://www.eleventhhourgoods.com/summer-book-challenge/ that offers money to kids who read from a prescribed list over the summer ostensibly. Look at the limited titles from which kids can elect to read. Note: I have other concerns about this program, but it is sufficient to note that choice is not a strong element of it. Summer reading programs with limited choices abound. I recently wrote about SRPs for "Knowledge Quest" here: http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/dive-into-summer-learning-with-the-mayjune-2015-issue/.

Back to the title for the post today. I have seen firsthand the results of choice. I see kids in book stories clutching their books as they stand in line at checkout. I have witnessed the glee at book fairs, in libraries, and even in my own bookstacks as kids of all ages find a book they WANT and then scurry away to read it. A couple of weeks ago, Career Girl brought her 12 and 15 year old to the house to browse my shelves. I had already set aside a stack of books for each based on what I knew about their reading habits and interests and preferences. I was so pleased that they took almost every book I had selected and then found even more on the shelves. They actually sat down and began reading while the grown-ups chatted about other topics.

I remember curling up with my own book, one I had selected (I still do). I remember watching the kids and then the grandkids do the same. There was and is something empowering about picking my own book. It made me feel important, and it contributed to my sense of independence as well. If, as Donalyn Miller suggests, we want to ensure kids can read int he wild, maybe we need to focus on choice more and more often. How can we offer choice to our students?
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