I’m about halfway through Book Love by Penny Kittle and it is giving me a lot of ideas about how I want to run my independent reading program next year.
The introduction has some shocking research about young readers. I mean, we know these things, but it is still depressing:
- “All adolescents are reading less. There is a downward trend in voluntary reading by youth at middle and high school levels over the past two decades.” – Carol Gordon and Ya-Ling Liu 2007 (as cited by Kittle, p. 2)
- There has been a “downward trend in reading among secondary-school-age students since 1992: less than one third of thirteen-year-olds are daily readers, and fifteen- to -twenty-four-year-olds spend only seven to ten minutes per day on voluntary reading.” – National Endowment for the Arts 2007 (as cited by Kittle p. 2)
I can also add the recent report from Common Sense Media (2014): “33% of thirteen-year-olds and 45% of seventeen-year-olds say they read for pleasure no more than one to two times per year.” Click here for Common Sense Media’s Infographic: Children, Teens, and Reading (2014)
Like Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide, Kittle is calling for English teachers—well for all teachers really—to focus on motivating kids to read more. Not necessarily the classics. Not the six required classroom novels. But to read for the joy of it. And to use class time for reading workshops and conferences.
I am so convinced by Kittle’s argument that I plan on revamping my independent reading program for next year. I hope to do a lot of strategizing over the summer, so I can convince my PLC members, administrators, students, and parents that using class time for independent reading is worth it. We know that most kids aren’t reading or that they aren’t reading enough. We have to do something about it.
Before I stop, I want to record great passage from Book Love. If I write it here, maybe I’ll stay inspired against the onslaught of beginning-of-year panic planning. By the way, I have many many questions about how I could actually do what Kittle does in here classroom. She sounds like some kind of Jedi master at getting kids to read, but still I’m willing to try.
“Readers need books that carry them along, compelling them to read. Readers need goals for the quarter, for the year, and we need to pay attention to quantity as well as quality in their reading lives. We can keep kids accountable with sustained pressure and encouragement, cultivating engagement with a wide variety of books” (Kittle, p. 8).