Thursday, March 12, 2009

Can Assigned Reading be Fun?

Harry was complaining the other day that having to read a book for school "sucks all the fun out of it."

I can't really argue with him.

Reading a good book-getting lost in that world to the point that you're surprised to find you haven't actually left your chair-is one of life's pleasures.

Having to discuss theme and character motivations and what have you - are generally not quite so thrilling.

Now - just to be clear - Harry's not in a class that teaches everything in a dry pedantic way. They answer questions based on the story, yes, they discuss the story in a group, sometimes he has to do a writing assignment that takes an aspect of the story one step further and requires a little critical analysis: what qualities do you think make a good hero, who do you consider a hero? But he's nine and he wants to just read the book and be left alone.

But reading a book for school, doesn't it have to be discussed? Don't questions have to be asked to check for a certain level of comprehension? In his reading class they do not have a "reading book" they use novels. I think that's good. But is it better to have a class that focuses on shorter passages in a reading book and leaves the novels for fun time only?

I remember when I was in middle school and we had to do at least 15 minutes of silent reading at home each night as part of our homework. Reading for 15 minutes a night was not a problem for me, then, as now, I loved to read. The part I didn't like about the assignment was that we had to keep a journal and log. We had to mark down our writing time and write a short summary of what we read every day. I hated that part. (I remember doing a week's worth of summaries at a time before handing the journal in on Fridays).

But isn't that a reasonable way to make sure that a child is actually reading something? There are always going to be students that the teacher knows is reading no matter what. But there are others who won't. Is keeping tab on the time you read and writing a short summary (I'm talking a couple of sentences here) really so awful. I thought it was when I had to do it.

So... how do you teach reading and keep reading fun at the same time?


kkolshorn said...

It is interesting I read this right after ordering books to read to Tyler. I think that this is tricky no matter what. I do have a friend who's son has to read to her so many minutes everyday. Now, the catch on this is that the parents, or other significant people in the child's life can have the story read to them. The catch is that they have a discussion on what is read and the parent writes in the journal what was read and discussed. This is a pilot program in this district to promote reading for fun. Apparently there was a study done that kids who read to adults tend to read more later in life. Also, the kids don't see the assignment as work. This same disctrict is involved with the states get parents involed in their child's education initative. I personally like both activities.

Christine M said...

It seems to me that anything that smacks of "you have to" suddenly becomes "un-fun". And that's the problem.

What books did you order for Tyler?

Bill said...

I think there is something physiological about the words "have to" that drains any task of any possible pleasure. There is also the fact that in learning any new skill there is a certain learning curve that smacks of work. Learning to analyze what you read is a skill and requires your brain to go someplace that's less comfortable than just reading. I think that's what the Harry child is experiencing. I'm trying to learn how to play the banjo. I hate to practice and I always have and so do many, many other people. Once you get past a certain point, it is no longer practicing, but playing and the more you play, the better you get and the more you enjoy it.

Kris, I think you are on the right track with reading to Tyler. I know that will be beneficial to him. Don't forget the tons of books at the Matawan Free Private Library and Train Shop. We offer books and toys for all ages. Feel free to browse the next time you come.

Congratulations to the Pippi child for her selection and her really great poetry.

Anne K said...

I've been thinking about this question. I don't believe I ever had any assigned reading except for text books until I was in highschool. I really did enjoy many of the assigned books. But if you didn't like a book it seemed like torture having to read it. For me that horrendous book to read was The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. The other problem is having to read when you're pressed for time. So I think some assigned reading is needed in school but it should be kept to a minimum. The assigned books should be of variety and give you the desire to read more on your own.