What If Students Read More Books? (3/365)

Photo by Eli Francis on UnsplashI struggle mightily every day not to scream, “Stop making everyone read the same damned book!”

Yes, there is a beauty in a shared reading and examining of a text, but there is a perverse ugliness in the shared pretending to read and examine a text.

Yes, strive to have democratic classrooms honoring all voices, but do not pretend texts assigned by edict or the false choice of 4 titles equals democracy.

Yes, helping students gain the keys they’ll need to unlock cultural doors through understanding the ideas of canonical literature gives a leg up, but the leg up means little if that canon leads to a belief those are the only stories worth reading and telling.

Yes, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, To Kill a Mockingbird, and their ilk are masterfully written, but we were having conversations about humanity’s darkness, political inequality, and race in America long before each was written (and perhaps we’ve gotten better at it since).

There is an oppression in forcing someone to read a book long after they’ve realized they hate it. What might the effects of that oppression be on how students think about reading after they’ve left our care?

There is a disrespect in only asking students to read a single novel in a quarter or semester when conservative estimates put the number of new books each year at 600,000. What stories will they never see or see themselves in?

There is a shutting of our minds when we say, “These are the books I teach. What might we learn if realize we teach students and help them learn from as many texts as possible?

There is an hypocrisy in decrying the effects of text-impoverished homes on students’ literacy and then pretending we support and frame our school libraries as spaces students own. What if we allowed student access to these spaces in the same way we access bookstores, coffee shops, and the kindle store?

If literacy is key to democracy, if one in four American adults hadn’t read a book in whole or part in 2016, and if more than 90% of those adults were products of American public schools; then maybe we should stop making everyone ready the same damned book.

As a literate adult, how did you come to read the last book you read?

One thought on “What If Students Read More Books? (3/365)

  1. Hi Mr. Chase,

    It’s good to have you blogging again. I’ve followed your blog, even during your long absences, for over 4 years. I am a high school English teacher who has taught at both public and private schools.

    I really like the prickly nature of this post! It is a topic I have given lots of thought to, and must confess, I teach one of those damned books to all students without providing choice.

    I will say also that I teach AP Literature where this is not an uncommon practice.

    However, for my “college prep” 12 grade I teach texts which build into PBL units. At my current private school, I have the liberty to design my curriculum and align it to the Common Core.

    When I know specific details about the works I teach such as level of difficulty, length, themes, etc., it allows me to know how much time I need to complete each work. (This sounds silly as I am writing it, but there must be something to it.) And, I am able to model how a reader goes about learning from a specific text.

    I know this sounds like I might be a control freak but when you open up the library to students, it’s difficult to not only find engagement (many students will not read what they choose) but a common dialogue that can reinforce learning to all students.

    Anyway, I love these posts! I am reading Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and biography on Freud by Peter Gay.

    Mr. D

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