Sunday, September 7, 2014

Tell Me a Reading Story #SummerSeries

Last week I accepted Lee Ann Spillane's challenge on the Portable Teacher blog to post about summer reading during September and October. I started early! Today is my second post in the challenge. 

This week I asked students to "tell me a story about your reading life." I invited students to consider their summer reading, to tell me a story about the moment they lost interest in reading, or to tell me how I can help them rediscover a love of reading. 

I can't assess my students on their required summer reading because we don't have a summer reading mandate for the students I teach. We do, however, mandate reading (and lots of tasks based on the required reading) for students taking honors and AP classes. I'll write more about that in a later post. 

For now, I want to tell reading stories about my students. 

After they completed the quick write, I asked students to share their responses. Getting students to share their writing this early in the year is often difficult, but as they began to read their responses, a common theme emerged: For many students the nail in the reading coffin has been hammered by Accelerated Reading programs. 

One student shared his frustration with AR points and how he was driven away from reading for pleasure by AR mandates. Happily, the student also shared that he discovered The Fault in Our Stars, which made him cry--both times he read the book.  How wonderful to hear a senior boy admit that a book made him cry. Other students echoed this young man's reaction to AR. 

Reading their reading stories also reveals my students' love of fantasy. One student wrote that reading 

lets you escape into a whole new world, which is also why I love fantasy. Fantasy books have a new world every time you pick one up, which is just amazing to me.

Among this student's favorites: The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Eragon, Harry Potter. 

For others, a busy life crowds reading to the back of the priority list. One student wrote about loving reading as a child and finding pleasure in "turning the crisp pages" of a book. She credited her mother and the weekly trips to the library as instrumental in her reading life. Now, wrote the student, homework, school activities, her job, her social life all edge out reading as priorities. 

The story of my students' reading lives exists in the realm of Once Upon a Time. Once upon a time these young people loved reading. Once upon a time they turned to reading for escape and enjoyment. Once upon a time AR, for many, taught them that points mattered more than their reading preferences, and they learned to game the system. Once upon a time, life's responsibilities took over and pushed reading out. 

There can be a happy ending. One student wrote about loving reading as a child, learning to dislike reading via AR, being put into study hall in seventh grade and having no homework, which prompted the teacher to send her to the library for a book to read. She read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and later read A Child Called It. Now the student is reading The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner, a book from my classroom library. 

This student's reading story is moving toward Happily Ever After, and that's not a fairy-tale ending. 

This week's book talks w/ links to my reviews: 

We Were Liars by e. lockhart

Skinny by Donna Connor

Caged Warrior by Alan Sitomer

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park