Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Teen-Age Reading, or Lack of It

Question: How can we increase the amount of students’ voluntary reading?

Quote: “An excerpt from an old Journal of Reading article sums up a real concern for many of today’s middle and secondary school teachers. The article begins: ‘One of the more disconcerting problems facing teachers is not their students’ inability to read but students’ general lack of interest, indifference, or sheer rejection of reading. These pupils are asking, ‘Why read at all?’ “ (Gentile & McMillan, 1977, p. 649).

The author goes on to provide a survey for teachers about their practices involving voluntary reading. Only a few of these survey items struck me as interesting and I am listing them below.

. Do you provide a wide collection of books in the classroom that range from easy to difficult?

 . Do you conduct private conferences with students about their self-selected reading?

. Do you provide students with an efficient record system for keeping a personal account of self-selected reading? [Do you provide reading response logs? RayS.]

. Are your students given an opportunity for creative reporting on favorite books?

. Do you invite resource persons to your classroom to discuss literature?

. Do your students share their reading through varied media?

. Do you read aloud to students regularly?

. Do you use book talks regularly?

. Do you study adolescents’ books and reviews of adolescents’ books regularly?

 .Do  you discuss with students the parts of a book…?

. Do you have organized parental involvement in the literature program?

. Do you help select books for the school library and do you have a voice in determining library policy?

Comment: And one question that the author did not include: Do you, the teacher, read books?

No question about it. People are spending less time reading books. It’s self-evident. This article was written in 1991 and the uses of people’s time are increasingly taken up with Tweets and other social media, electronic games, cable, Fios, and satellite TV, the Internet, etc. On the plus side we now have E-books. Are students reading E-books?

I think a whole host of ideas needs to be brought to bear on students’ increasing failure to read books on their own, including how to read a book or article efficiently. If students do not feel trapped in reading books, can learn to read parts of books, can learn to abandon particular books when the books lose their interest or, at least, learn how to skim and scan in order to find the essential ideas of the books, students will be more likely to read them. RayS.

 Title: “Getting Adolescents to Read.” L M Clary. Journal of Reading (February 1991), 340-346.

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