Thursday, May 13, 2010
How Schools Turn Reading into a Chore
I read with my children. Every night, they each get to pick one book and we all sit together and read each book out loud. It takes us as little as 20 minutes, but sometimes as long as 45. We read other times as well throughout the day, but that is the one time we for sure read each night.
Here in our state, the office of education is distributing summer reading calendars to every student. The students are to track their reading and earn rewards based on their reading. I supposed it's a good motivator for some kids and keeps some kids reading who might not otherwise read. But I feel personally annoyed by it.
And actually, that goes for all and any reading incentives or projects for kids to read. I am okay with the occasional book report. I think that is necessary to learn to pick apart a book and break it down into its parts--learn what goes into a good book. But to do it for EVERY SINGLE book a child reads? To calculate every single minute they spend reading and give them rewards based on that or deny them rewards based on that? I really don't like it one bit.
The summer reading calendar, is optional, of course. I probably won't fill it out. I already can't stand making my son fill in little circles for every night he reads. He also has to bring home "teacher-approved" books to read and do a report on every single one he finishes. That equates to about 1 book report every 1-1/2 weeks since he reads one chapter every night. He reads that book when he first walks in the door from school and then we read again at bedtime, something he chooses and actually WANTS to read.
I guess my gripe with it is that some kids are good readers and might be more motivated to read if they just read for the fun of reading. The more work a child associates with reading, the more they view it as a chore rather than entertainment. I really didn't like reading books for school very much, you know books like "The Grapes of Wrath", "A Tale of Two Cities", "The Brothers Karamazov", "My Name is Asher Lev,", etc. Having to take quizzes and write essays about books I never did like. I like to read because it's entertaining and enjoyable. Not that I don't like to talk about the books I read and pick them apart for literary value because I do, but I hated being graded on it. Sucked the fun right out. For me. My son is the same way. I can tell he views the chapter books that he brings home as a chore. But at night, when he can pick whatever book he chooses, we have a lot of fun learning about spiders, or the digestive system, or volcanoes, or wildfires, or sometimes listening to a good story about a moose and two ducks who travel to Florida from New Hampshire for the winter ("Duck, Duck, Moose" by Dave Horowitz).
So there, state board of education! I refuse to make my child participate in your summer reading program. We read enough without that incentive!
Oh, and my other annoyance right now is the new law they just passed here that will hold students back in grades 1-3 for not reading on grade level. I get that they need them to be able to keep up with the work in the next grade, but some kids just take longer to develop the necessary skills to read. So someone who might be brilliant in every other area will be kept back one year because they aren't reading at exactly the right level? I just think it's ridiculous. There needs to be more to the equation than just reading level.