It seems that no matter where I go, I enter into the debate about “assigned reading.” In elementary school, it goes by another namesake, “the whole class novel.” Either way, handing out class sets of teacher selected books, assigning chunks of texts to read, and answering questions about the text is fiercely defended by its proponents as a constructive and effective means for teaching children how to become better readers. For those who believe in teaching this way, I always ask one simple question: How much do your students read?
When I talk to teachers about the amount of time that they spend with a whole class novel, most of them tell me that a book generally takes a month or better to complete, depending on how many chapters are in it. At that rate, students finish somewhere around eight to ten books a year. That falls significantly short of the twenty-five book a year standard required by New York State, not to mention my own personal standard of making sure kids finish at least three books a month. When I mention this, I often hear the voice of exasperation, “You think my students should be reading more? I can barely get them to read that much.”
Though it doesn’t sound highly scientific, reading a lot is one of the tenets proven by research to help children become more proficient readers. If kids aren’t reading a lot, we need to question the validity of our teaching practices and wonder out loud and talk to EVERYBODY about what we can do to change this.
Does getting kids to read five to eight hundred pages a week seem like an unattainable dream? If you think yes, I urge you to gather some colleagues together to watch this video. When it’s over, think hard about next year. What can you do differently to rekindle the passion for reading and help your students read more pages, more often?