Reading for Pleasure

Winter Edition 2016

Why should students have opportunities to independently pick books that interest them (even if they're not on their level)?

1. Let's get real

There are no reading levels in real life! Books-a-million doesn't have books categorized by reading levels nor does any library. Instead, books are described in the catalog by subjects, interests, and common themes. When you go buy a book at any bookstore or grab a magazine, do they ask if it's on your level? Do you ever read material that is too hard or too easy? Sure you do! Students need practice and exposure picking books on their own! They will mess up, but they will never learn without practice.

2. Reading levels are not the "be-all, end-all".

Strict reliance on a reading level limits children and may not always be appropriate when looking at content, maturity, and interest. While levels are a good starting point when making book selections, other factors should be considered. For example, most students who are struggling readers are probably the students who aren't getting exposure to books at home. Adding another restriction, then adds another level of complexity that will cause more parents to give up as well as the children. We should desire to encourage a culture of literacy and excitement in discovering new books and ideas instead of discouraging them more.

3. Give me five

While students will not always have reading levels, they will always have their hands (or at least let's hope so). Parents may not remember the level their child is on either, so using the 5-finger rule is more practical.

4. Freedom

Students take pride and ownership when given a choice! Adults dictate what children should do throughout the majority of the day, and while instructional learning is vital, being given the opportunity to choose has benefits as well.

5. Even the Common Core says so

The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts specifically says:

"Students ability to read complex text does not always develop in a linear fashion. Although the progression of the Reading standard 10 defines required grade-by-grade growth in students' ability to read complex text, the development of this ability in individual students is unlikely to occur at an unbroken pace. Students need opportunities to stretch their reading abilities but also to experience the satisfaction and pleasure of easy, fluent reading within them, both of which the Standards allow for. As noted above, such factors as students' motivation, knowledge, and experiences must also come into play in text selection. Students deeply interested in a a given topic, for example may engage with texts on that subject across a range of complexity. Particular tasks may also require students to read harder texts than they would normally be required to. Conversely, teachers who have had success using particular texts that are easier than those required for a given grade band should feel free to continue to use them as long as the general movement during a given school year is toward texts of higher levels of complexity." (Appendix A, p. 9)

6. Lifelong reading is the goal!

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