Reading, This is Fun

This past week, my oldest daughter started taking Accelerated Reader tests at her school.  She is in kindergarten and quite young for her grade, but she loves to read (big surprise there, daughter of a librarian and all).  What I thought about as I watched her read over a new book each day was what happens to this enthusiasm about reading as children grow older?  My daughter could not wait for a new book to bring home each day.  She loved sitting down with me to prove she could both read and understand the book.  This is the case with so many elementary aged children.  They love going to the library to pick new books, they love story time.  Meanwhile at the high school, I have a handful of students that pop in and ask about new books or make recommendations for additions to our library.  Most of the other requests I have are "what is your shortest book?" or a statements such as "I hate reading."  When do things change?  What happened to those excited elementary students?

I have a feeling I may know what changes.  First, as children grow, they are exposed to many other hobbies and activities (team sports, organizations, video games, music, etc.).  However, we all have interests that take our time, yet many of us still find time to enjoy reading.  I think the major "turn off" for students as they grow is simple; books eventually change from "pick your own and enjoy" to "class we are reading this book, like it or not."  Soon, some readers start to believe every book out there is just as bad as the forced read that was just introduced.  I remember my days back in the classroom teaching hour after hour of high school juniors The Scarlet Letter.  Wow, not to offend any Hawthorne fans, but not the most exciting piece of work for a bunch of 16 - 17 year old students.  

I believe we need to keep choice as an important element of teaching reading in our schools.  While a required novel is necessary, once all reading becomes pre-selected required reading, we soon start chasing away those excited readers.  This is just one of the many reasons to have a well stocked and staffed school library.  As a father I have many hopes and visions for both of my children, one is that they both continue to love books and reading as they grow into adulthood.

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