Encouraging Students to Read: A Reader

Valerie Strauss has dedicated two blog posts (here and here) to a new report, Kids & Family Reading Report.

One key finding deserves highlighting (and a caveat):

Additional factors that predict children ages 12–17 will be frequent readers include reading a book of choice independently in school, ereading experiences, a large home library, having been told their reading level and having parents involved in their reading habits.

First, the caveat: Beware concerns about reading levels, which are the flawed domain of the technocrat. (See 21st Century Literacy, co-authored with Renita Schmidt.)

But more important is that (yet again) choice, independent reading, and access to books are all vital to supporting eager and sophisticated readers among children and students.

Note that eager readers are not the result of reading programs, worksheets, intense phonics instruction, or assigning classic reading lists (although all of those have some role to play if not abused, overemphasized).

“It is important that we do not set up in our class-rooms prejudices or snobberies which will make our students less instead of better able to understand, enjoy, and use this language,” argued Lou LaBrant, former NCTE president, in 1943, adding

Too frequently we give children books which have enough value that we call them “good,” forgetting that there are other, perhaps more important values which we are thereby missing. It is actually possible that reading will narrow rather than broaden understanding.Some children’s books, moreover, are directed toward encouraging a naive, simple acceptance of externals which we seem at times to hold as desirable for children….Let us have no more of assignments which emphasize quantity, place form above meaning, or insist on structure which is not the child’s. (p. 95)

See then:

LaBrant, L. (1937, February 17). The content of a free reading programEducational Research Bulletin, 16(2), 29–34.

LaBrant, L. (1941). English in the American scene. The English Journal, 30(3), 203–209.

LaBrant, L. (1943). Language teaching in a changing world. The Elementary English Review, 20(3), 93–97.

Stephen Krashen: Literacy: Free Voluntary Reading

Setting Free the Books: On Stepping Aside as Teaching

Progressivism and Whole Language: A Reader

Attack on “Balanced Literacy” Is Attack on Professional Teachers, Research

Reading Out of Context: “But there was something missing,” Walter Dean Myers

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