Every year, I here a constant lament from the parents of incoming freshmen, whom I teach in Chapel Hill, NC. Their child's love for reading is fizzling out. The flame for literacy that burned so bright in elementary school is now but a dying ember fit for an abandoned campsite.
This year, I'm determined to reignite that flame, and I want to do so by introducing new, modern young adult novels into the curriculum that better reflect their experiences, their emotions and their world.
Our new "Book Clubs" will allow them the autonomy to choose and read new novels that they connect with, and therefore are more engaged in. The Book Clubs will also allow them to learn from each other in small-group settings, as they discuss and implement creative tasks centering around their shared knowledge and excitement over the books they choose. No longer is the teacher giving them wisdom; they are creating it themselves.
My in-class Book Club project seeks to spur and sustain student interest in reading that will make them more engaged and capable learners. It is understandable that with the modernization of our society, students find themselves drawn away from the intellectual and intrinsic fulfillment of books to the convenience and expediency of technological diversions. Unfortunately, the high school classroom isn’t currently set up to stop this trend of declined interest in “for pleasure” reading. While the “core texts” we read in our classes have value and can spark interest among students, when teachers help connect the texts to students’ own lives and social spheres, these works are no longer a viable tool for sustaining the interest of all our students.
This project will address and hopefully mitigate the well-documented decline in “for pleasure” reading among students by allowing students to choose texts that would more likely engage them.
According to a longitudinal study by Common Sense Media, “in 1984, 8% of 13-year-olds and 9% of 17-year-olds said they ‘never’ or ‘hardly ever’ read for pleasure. In 2014, that number had almost tripled, to 22% and 27%” (Alter). By giving students relatable, modern, socially conscious material – along with modest teaching supports to ensure engagement, interaction and discourse – students will be more likely to continue seeking out texts that pique their interests.
1. Upon taking end-of-year survey, 75% of students previously having reported to fully read 0 books beyond class time (“for pleasure”) yearly will have reported to have read two full “for pleasure” books by the end of the school year.
2. Upon taking survey, 75% of self-reported “average” and “avid” readers will have reported increased desire to read for pleasure and more awareness of the significance of reading for pleasure in the development of critical thinking skills.
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