Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Perfect Match

Without fail, each time I visit a school, I encounter teachers exasperated by chronic book abandoners, students insistent upon reading books that are too hard, and kids whining that reading is boring. These complaints stem back to the same central issue: book choice. Good teachers know that when books don’t fit, readers can’t do what they need most in order to improve: read more pages, more often. It’s no wonder teachers are exasperated! This is just too important to ignore!

So, what are we to do?

My answer has been to remain vigilant about teaching children how to choose books. This week (and mind you, this is FEBRUARY), I revisited the importance of previewing a book with a group of fourth graders. I modeled how to think about the front cover, the back cover, and reminded them to look inside. For guided practice, I dusted off a whole class set of Shiloh tucked on a shelf and asked the group to think about whether this would be a just right book for them.

I was amazed by what happened next.

Not one student—not one—finished previewing that book in under seven minutes. I watched as they touched the front cover and turned the book over. They looked inside and read a few pages. When we were done, eight students concluded that this book would not be good for them and cited reasons like “there’s so much I already don’t understand” and “I think it will take too long for me to read.” These are valid reasons not to read a book. And these are things that can’t be determined in the thirty seconds that I typically see students take to choose books.

For those of you among the ranks of the exasperated, I urge you to keep chipping away at the book choice stone. Know that just because you taught it in September and again in October, what children need to know about how to choose wisely cannot be taught in a few finite lessons. If we want children who read with passion and intention, we must stress the importance of knowing how to find the perfect match.

If you want to try this lesson, too, feel free to download my Lesson Plan, “Ways to know what a book holds in store for you by previewing it.”

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