Saturday, May 12, 2012

Reading Really Is Fundamental

For the last few days, I have been working on a reading list for students to spur a little summer reading.

At the school where I teach, each teacher hands out a "summer reading" requirement list of 4 or 5 books (sometimes more, depending on grade level and type of books) that the kids are expected to read prior to the start of the next term.

For my lists though, I'm striving to come up with something that makes reading seem fun -- I want to hook the kids into books from now through the rest of their lives.  And to do that, they have to want to pick up the books and read.

I'm wondering:  if you were making a list of books that kids ought to read for fun, especially for reluctant readers in the age range of 6 through 13, what would your top 5 books be?

How about if you were making a list of books these kids ought to read before they go to college, what would your top 5 books be?

And, finally, when you were a kid, what was the book that hooked you on reading?  Do you remember it?

It's funny because there are always differing opinions on what is great reading and what is crapola, although there are some books that almost always make the list for everyone when I talk with them about this.  For each child, book recommendations are going to be different based on their own, individual interests, obviously.  But there are certain constants that are classics that everyone generally reads...and for good reason.  Those are the gems I'm trying to mine.

I ask the above questions because I'm working on some end of the year things for the library.

It is a thrilling thing to have a parent say to you that their child is reading so much more because of some effort you have made.  I'm hoping to help create more readers in the years to come.

For the younger kids, I'm trying to compile a list of books that are simply fun to read or that introduce certain things to help them want to become better readers -- funny characters, repetitive phrases that help with sound and word recognition, all the usual stuff for younger kids that makes them want to learn how to open a book and read for fun.

For the older kids, though?  I want to start talking about the importance of reading for their broader educational goals and how important independent learning is for the rest of their lives.

So I'm working on a more challenging list that ranges from award winning books to some of the classics they will hit their freshman year in college -- not expecting them to read them all this summer, mind you, but giving a sort of check-list of books to shoot for in the years ahead perhaps.  I'm hoping also to give their parents a little perspective on the wider need for reading some of the classics and some more challenging books before their child goes to college.

But I'm wrestling with myself on whether such a list for the older kids will defeat the "reading is fun" purpose of things.  I don't want a child who is not ready being forced to slog through The Iliad this summer.

So I'm thinking about two lists -- one for fun, one for the future -- for kids in 4th grade and up.  But I'm wondering if two big lists is way, way too much.  So I'm trying to figure out how to narrow it down or, perhaps, the college reading list waits for next year with everyone but the outgoing 6th graders.  It's a conundrum.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you all think.

(Photo via Christy Hardin Smith.)


Christy Hardin Smith said...

For me, I'm pretty sure it was the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House books that hooked me entirely. I was already reading by the time I received the set for a Christmas present from my grandparents. But once I cracked open Little House in the Big Woods, I could not put it down. I was well and truly hooked.

Richard Taylor said...

For me, it probably goes back to my grandmother reading along with me to The Jungle Book/Riki Tiki Tavi/The Just-So Stories. I still go back and re-read Kipling every few years because of that.

Also, there was a 'big book' of Wind In the Willows.

Then when I was 7, I had a serious lung disease called Histoplasmosis and part of the treatment was I was not allowed to run or play hard. I got parked in a chair with books handed to me (a LOT of the children versions of "Great Classics") and I was off to the races...