Today I share two posts that I read last week that talk about giving kids choice in their reading. I also wrote about reading choice last week myself, and was glad to see that the NCTE website and Pernille Ripp were on the same page with me.
Pernille Ripp: "If we constantly limit choice in reading because we need kids to always be reading a just right book as determined by us, how will kids ever learn to self-select a book? ...
I will tell you, if we do not offer choice until they have reached their grade level reading level, then we will have lost so many readers before then.
So we offer choice and we offer our support. We help them figure out how to book shop and we use tools, such as reading data as PART of the support. But we don’t tell them that they can only choose from a certain bin, or shelf, or letter level. We don’t tell them that this is the only section for them."
Me: The first thing I want to say here is that if you care about kids and reading, you really really should be reading Pernille's blog. She hits it out of the park every single day. If you are a teacher, I highly recommend that you invest in Pernille's latest book, Passionate Readers [I haven't read it, but I have been reading her blog posts on similar themes for a couple of years now].
This post was, I think, a response to people challenging one aspect of a broader post that Pernille had recently published: A Call for Common Sense
#Reading Instruction | time to read, choice, access to books + a community ow.ly/QEbk30fMtse. Also well worth your time. Pernille defends the right of kids to choose what they want to read, no matter where they are in the literacy process, both because they need to learn to choose for themselves and because if you don't let them choose, reading won't be fun for them.
I have tried over the past seven years to give my daughter as much choice as I possibly can, whether she is reading on her own or I am reading to her. I wish that I could count on all of her future teachers to feel the same way. [I do think that her current teacher feels this way, which makes me happy.] There is some concept of levels that she's supposed to choose from in her school library, and I try to give that as little validation as possible from home. Today I checked out some books for her at the public library. A few might be judged too easy for her "reading level" and a few too advanced. But my criteria was that they were books that I thought she would enjoy (mostly graphic novels). And if she doesn't like them - she is more than welcome to cast them aside. We'll find others.
Jeffrey Wilhelm: "In our book (shown to right), we argue that pleasure reading is a civil rights issue. Why? Because fine-grained longitudinal studies (e.g., the British Cohort study: Sullivan & Brown, 2013; and John Guthrie’s analysis of PISA data, 2004, among many others) demonstrate that pleasure reading in youth is the most explanatory factor in both cognitive progress and social mobility over time.
Pleasure reading is more powerful than parents’ educational attainment or socioeconomic status. This means that pleasure reading is THE way to address social inequalities in terms of actualizing our students’ full potential and overcoming barriers to satisfying and successful lives...
Our data clearly establish that students gravitate to the kinds of books they need to navigate their current life challenges, and that many ancillary benefits accrue in the realms of cognition, psychology, emotional development, and socialness. So much so that we developed the mantra: Kids read what they need!
This finding led us to be more trusting of kids’ choices and to ask them about why they chose to read what they did, and eventually to championing these choices. We likewise found that each of the marginalized genres we studied (romance, horror, vampire, fantasy, and dystopia) provided specific benefits and helped students navigate different individual developmental challenges."
Me: This post is also related to material from a book, in this case Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want and Why We Should Let Them by Jeffrey Wilhelm, Michael Smith, and Sharon Fransen [which I also haven't read, but I quite liked the research that Wilhelm described in this NCTE article]. There's a lot more to this article, and I do recommend that you click through to read it in full. The author talks extensively about how and why to focus on pleasure in reading. I, of course, especially liked the part about the importance of giving kids choice.
I've never directly thought about pleasure reading as a civil rights issue, but I am certain that my own years of pleasure reading helped me to be one of the first people in my extended family to graduate from college. I have always felt that all kids deserve the chance to learn to love books. I understand that people are different, and that not everyone will become as book-obsessed as I am, but I feel that they should all have the opportunity. I was pleased to see the NCTE featuring this work.