Thanks to a really nasty summer cold, my brain is still mush and not quite up to working on the review posts I have brewing.
So instead I will link to this very interesting article in the NYTimes:
A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like
And then talk about it:
I think this is a fantastic program, and only wish that I could have had the opportunity to experience a program like this in school. Right up front: I love to read, I come from a family of readers, and I was always in the “smart kid” classes. That being said, I really despised most of the assigned reading I had to do in school, and think it was an utter waste of everyone’s time. Grapes of Wrath? Hated it, and have no desire to read anything else by Steinbeck. Red Badge of Courage? Didn’t like it, and thought it was boring. Billy Budd? REALLY hated it, and would rather scrub bathrooms (a chore I despise) than read Moby Dick. And so on and so forth. In fact, the only required reading I liked was the Shakespeare, but I already liked Shakespeare before I had to start reading it for school, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. That’s it, out of 12 years of school. (I’m skipping college and grad school in this argument, because those are a bit different, but honestly, I hated almost all of the assigned readings there as well.)
Being forced to read a difficult book that may or may not Teach an Important Life Lesson is going to do nothing to make a reluctant reader more receptive to reading–it will only reinforce their opinion that reading is too hard, and that books not worth the time and effort it takes to get through them.
I do think there should be guidance by a teacher, and I do think that there should be expectations that the books become more engaging (or difficult, or challenging, or sophisticated, or however you want to phrase it) as the school year progresses. I do think there should still be (excerpts of) books that all the students read, but that those should not be the bulk of the course readings.
Meg Cabot hits it on the nose:
How to Foster a Hatred For Reading