I want my students to read for pleasure. To enjoy reading. To read because they want to, not because they have to. I want them to read for the reasons beautifully expressed in the tweet below:
But how do you get high school students back into reading?
Towards the end of junior kindergarten, the girls started bringing home levelled readers. Those readers are painful and boring. We would plod through them. (And full confession, we would only do them once or twice a week.) It was the same in senior kindergarten, although Marisa was more enthusiastic, so she would read two or three times a week, and Maddy, maybe once or twice. My goal is to have my daughters LIKE reading, and I was afraid that this homework reading was turning them off. Fortunately, Marisa and Madeline had excellent kindergarten teachers, who were supportive of my refusal to do the levelled readers every night, especially when they weren't "feeling" it. This support was great, because they're experts in teaching reading, and another full confession, despite being an English teacher, I don't know how to teach the basics of learning how to read. As a high school teacher, I'm supposed (?) to get students who have already mastered reading.
Now that the girls are in Grade 1, they are much more interested in reading, and often enjoy reading their levelled readers every night. More importantly, they are also interested in whatever I am reading and just words in general. When I am reading to them, they choose to read sentences here and there, and they like pointing out the words as we go along. My goal is for them to be like me: someone who likes reading, so much that as a child, my consequences for not doing my chores was having my books taken away.
This brings me to reading in high school. When do students, who loved or at least liked, reading, stop reading? And I don't mean for school. I mean, for pleasure.
How do I get high school students--those who don't see the point in, or pleasure of, reading--to read?
I have been thinking about reading, especially in the context of the independent study unit, a lot lately. Many English courses have an ISU component, where students are required to read a book independently, then do something with it. (Often an essay or a presentation or both.) I'm not a huge fan of ISUs in the traditional sense. While I still did a traditional ISU with Grade 10 Academic English, in Grade 11 College-Preparation English (ENG3C), I did not do one, and in the Grade 11 University-Preparation English course, students did an independent blog. Next semester, I am teaching two classes of ENG3C at my new school, and I thought that I could do a traditional ISU with my classes. In fact, I said, "I'll do anything once." But I'm not so sure. In general, students in ENG3C do NOT read for school unless it is in the classroom and forced upon them. Reading for pleasure is not happening, for the most part. So what do I do?
As I was pondering my questions about reading, I came across, "How to Stop Killing the Love of Reading" by Jennifer Gonzalez, based on her interview with Pernille Ripp, author of Passionate Readers. This ignited a spark in me. It has made me more resistant to the traditional ISU and is forcing me to re-envision my daily teaching. I am currently reading Ripp's blog to help me figure out how I can help students become readers. And this is where I will leave off. I'm working on finding answers to get me started for February, and I am thankful that I came across Matt Haig, Jennifer Gonzalez, and Pernille Ripp.