In my Freshman English classroom there are students with many different reading abilities. Some are natural readers, some are reluctant, and there are usually a few that may not have read a book from cover to cover since the chapter books they read in elementary school.
Even though the year has just begun, I already have a sense of what my students think of reading.
The book lovers are eager to share what they read over the summer, and they are eager to find new books. The reluctant readers have also made themselves known: they tell me in no uncertain terms that they hate to read, or they are not good readers. I know that some will read what they are made to read, but they have not chosen a book or visited a library in the past year or more. The students that struggle the most are adept at hiding - but in our conversations I can see the nervousness. They worry that what I am going to "make them" read will only frustrate them.
Classroom libraries can be a compilation of all the used book sales, tag sales and ragged leftovers from relatives' book shelves, with a scattering of embossed medals from Newbery, Printz and Caldecott. That is what you can find in my classroom, and it had served me well for the last fourteen years. But when I first got wind of Penny Kittle's take on the reader's workshop model, I looked over my classroom shelves with a more critical eye. This is going need some work, I thought. Not that I am not diligent in scouring the sales, and even going for new copies when a book sends my heart fluttering. But even the most diligent of teachers finds that the best books find new homes when a student falls in love with them.
With the purchase of well written, relevant titles , like Aronson's Head Case, Gantos' A Hole in My Life and many others, we can expand our conversations in the classroom to include perspectives from around the world.
Student reader's choice is about promoting a love of reading, building reading stamina and opening up a world outside the boundaries of many of my student's lives. Even before reading Penny Kittle's Book Love, I knew that I wanted to integrate book choice into my professional practices.
After reading her book, I realized that there are about 50 titles that would help to make my classroom library respectable. As the first freshman English teacher in my school to spearhead this approach, I would also like to offer these titles to the others on my team. My updated classroom library will serve as a boost for the novels I have already acquired, and I will also be sharing these with the other freshman English teachers.
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