I think that as English teachers we have much more power than we realize. We can create lifelong readers or individuals who hate reading based on the books we choose and the methods we use in the classroom. Not every book will mesh well with every student. I think that’s why it’s so important to use a wide range of texts in the classroom and to encourage independent reading.
Independent reading. Isn’t that something we have elementary school students do? And then don’t we slowly but surely phase it out because we don’t have the time or there are other things we need to do or something like that? I think it’s time to bring it back. I think it’s time to carve out pockets of time that are exclusively for reading. Reading is important, and I really don’t think we give it enough credence the higher we get in education.
I worry that especially at the high school level we aren’t encouraging independent reading enough. Often there isn’t time set aside for independent reading. We encourage reading for assignments, but we don’t necessarily encourage students to go out and find books to fall in love with. If the only books students read are the ones we assign, it’s no small wonder some of them hate reading. We aren’t allowing them to find the books that speak to them.
Books do speak to people. The stories and characters become entities we can relate to. We fall in love with the stories because there’s something familiar in them. But if we don’t let students seek out their own stories and reading material they don’t have those opportunities to connect with stories and fall in love with reading.
I think we need to find a 10 minute chunk in our time with students and let them read. Every day. We need to foster a love of reading so our students can understand all that books offer. We need to be willing to recommend books if students can’t find one. We need to teach students that there are more books out there than what we have time to teach; we need to teach students to want to explore and discover.