I ❤ Book Love

We all remember our humble days of reading education:

Class, please turn to chapter five of White Fang and follow along as Molly begins reading.”

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And then the inevitable:

You will be quizzed over this reading.”

Which, as we all know, is code for: So you better shut up and pay attention!

I bet you’re all volunteering to get enrolled in that reading class.

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But what if our traditional reading experience was different?

If the goal of our teachers was to help students gain a passion for reading (instead of conducting whole-class reading everyday and teaching to the test), how different would we be as readers today?

Penny Kittle wrote Book Love with the aforementioned goal in mind.

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Her philosophy: teenagers want to read if we let them.

Translation: stop forcing students to read crappy books like White Fang (I’m not a fan of dogs and in 7th grade I surely didn’t want to read about them).

When students see reading as self-enriching and nonthreatening, they are more likely to open pages of a book they have sincere interest in.

Goodreads has a list of Best Young Adult Books voted by over 38,000 voters, not by a panel of ‘professional’ judges, but by real-life readers (sidenote: White Fang was NOT listed). There are so many great books out there – we just have to get students’ hands on them!

In Kittle’s readers workshop, students independently read for the majority of the class period, as well as several hours per week at home. Because of this vigorous reading schedule, students build reading stamina and fluency.

For educators concerned with national and state testing, students do not need drill and practice exercises because they have worked to build the stamina necessary to take an hour-long reading test. Stamina and fluency also prepares students for the rigors of college courses, too.

From building a classroom library to book talks to reader conferences, Kittle details the practical function of her own reading classroom.

Book Love is so practical I compiled useful theories from it and Nancie Atwell’s The Reading Zone (many of Kittle’s theories are based off of Nancie’s) to devise practical ways to Foster Student Motivation in reading class.

Perhaps I’m still bitter over my White Fang experience, but only because I now know I was robbed of years of amazing reading. Maybe if I had participated in a reader’s workshop my reading life today would be better.

And maybe I wouldn’t hate White Fang so much.

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