I ran across two articles about nurturing the joy of learning last week. The first was about how schools should NOT assign mandatory summer reading, something with which I agree strongly. The second was about the importance of nurturing a joy of writing in students, in addition to a joy of reading. This was a good reminder to me, the mother of a child who declares herself a writer. I hope you find these articles useful.
John Warner: "As someone who loves and values books and reading and also has been teaching college writing for the past 16 years, I have a request: Please don't do that [send home required reading lists].
Seems paradoxical, I know. Why would a book lover like me discourage schools from requiring students to read over the summer?
Nurturing good reading habits is a long game, and whenever we tether reading to school, we hinder, rather than help, students. The National Counsel of Teachers of English has a list of best practices when it comes to effective reading instruction, including this: "Provide daily opportunities for students to read books of their own choice at school."
I'd like to add a personal recommendation: When not in school, let students read whatever the heck they want."
Me: I agree with John Warner 100%. I think it's fine to provide lists of titles that kids might enjoy, as a helpful tool. But to me, summer reading for kids, as it usually is for adults, should be about reading whatever is of interest at that particular moment. Comic strips, books of amazing facts, instruction manuals, notebook novels, verse novels, series titles, etc., etc., etc.
Monica Edinger: "All of this informs my beliefs when it comes to teaching writing to 4th graders. These include:
- Creating situations where students feel invested in their writing
- That they have audiences
- That they find joy in the work
- That they understand that there are many different ways and reasons to write — some being completely private, some to figure out a problem, and more.
Of late my impression is that writing instruction in schools is highly driven by testing, common core curriculum, packaged programs, and consultants."
Me: Monica shares an early experience in school that harmed her confidence in her writing for years, and discusses how that experience informed her methods of teaching writing today. She also shares her responses to Ralph Fletcher's new book on "cultivating high-impact, low-stakes writing." This post really struck me because my daughter right now loves to write. But I do worry that emphasis on structure and spelling and the like will take away that joy as she gets older. Monica's post made me realize that in addition to my efforts to keep reading at home as joyful an experience for my daughter as possible, I need to do the same thing with writing. I certainly intend to try!