Are kids actually reading? It's a worthwhile question. In an age when distractions seem to make readers more reluctant, one must wonder how many students actually do it.
There's evidence to support this fear. Grant Wiggins recently published a survey of a typical American high school. It found that English is students' least favorite subject, and worse, they despise reading. Here's some student feedback:
Even though the books are classics, they are very uninteresting. Almost every one of my classmates admits to never reading the books because they are so painfully boring to read . . . Also, unless the essays are written exactly how that teacher likes, you are almost always guaranteed a poor grade. You never get a chance to write in your own voice because it's so formatted and strict. No real freedom there. Overall a miserable class.
I don’t like it because all the books we read I am not interested in. Which makes it hard to read everything fully, I would rather have a choice on what books to read rather than having them choose for me.
There is no value in reading old books and making up stupid feelings that we are supposed to get from reading when none of it makes sense or it is just a stupid book.
It doesn’t have to be this way. A reading transformation can occur in your school much like it has in my classroom, replacing fear and dread with excitement and self-expression. Students will read if they choose the books. They will write with voice and clarity if they have the ability to express their thoughts. They can change from reluctant to inspired readers if it happens on their own terms. All you have to do is flip the experience, turning the practice of reading on its head by making them the creators of their own learning.