Friday, December 7, 2012

Do students need to "build reading perseverance"?

I was at a Metco conference all day today, and one of the workshops I attended was on the Common Core.  It was interesting in lots of ways that I'll have to mull over for a while, but one minor thing I was struck by was the way the presenter talked about independent reading.  The presenter, a high-school principal, told the story of a teacher in her school who twice a week puts high-interest YA books on every desk, and for the first 30 minutes of the period has the students just read.  When one of the students was asked why he thought they were spending 30 minutes twice a week in reading, the kid said, clearly repeating a phrase the teacher had instilled in him, "Well, we're going to have to take the SATs, so we have to build up our perseverance."

Later in the workshop, the presenter put up a slide of "tips" for ways ELA teachers can prepare their students for the Common Core and the tests that will stem from it.  One of her slides was titled "FOCUS ON READING", and it had two "tips". One was about reading in the content areas and the other was this:

"Students need to build reading perseverance"

I wasn't sure what I thought about this.  On the one hand, I was happy to see teachers encouraged to have their students do in-class reading of pleasurable texts--particularly in connection with the Common Core, which does not, as far as I can see, pay much explicit attention to reading volume or making sure that students are actually reading.  On the other hand, I was like: What?!  Perseverance?!  That is so depressing!  We "persevere" in things that are difficult, painful, discouraging.  Reading a good book is not supposed to be difficult, painful and discouraging; it's supposed to be entertaining, engrossing, FUN!

Maybe I'm just lucky, but my experience is that for well over 90% of my students (whether in the Metco program or not), they don't have much trouble sitting and reading silently.  This year, I had one girl who complained the most about how much she disliked reading; over the past couple of weeks I have had to tell her more than once, when we were having a discussion or doing a writing activity, to stop reading and put her book away.  Reading is fun--that's what we need to be helping our students to discover.

More on other stuff later; it was an interesting day.

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