Whatever happened to …

… Reading just for the love of it?

Thanks to Aviva Dunsiger for suggesting this topic in the padlet.

I know and appreciate the value in “purposeful reading” (be it for teaching different decoding or comprehension strategies), but there’s also value in allowing kids to just love reading (be it magazines, newspaper articles, or books). If we gave the time to reading (maybe without always having a bigger motive), I wonder if we’d have more kids that read for the love of it. Would this help our literacy scores in the end?

I think that this is a topic that’s difficult to draw to a single conclusion.  I’m sure that everyone has their own opinions.  I also think that a big factor has arisen with respect to standardized testing.

I’m not sure that I can draw all of this to a logical conclusion but I can sure have my own opinions.

Reading was big in our house as I was growing up.  Television time was metered and we were required to be in our rooms after school and before supper doing homework, doing reading, practising guitar, etc. for a certain time each day.  Every Friday when my mother would go shopping, she would buy two comic books for my brother and me.  One was Superman and the other was Batman and we’d both read both.  Reading was super important to her and her logic was that any reading is good reading.  Every two weeks, she would take us to the public library and we’d book out the limit of two books to enjoy.  It didn’t take long to go through the entire list of Zane Grey and Earl Derr Biggers and we’d have to dig a little deeper.  I’ll admit that many were chosen by the cover and not all were “good” by my standards.  In high school, I was interested in horror – Vincent Price seemed to have a new movie every week and Edgar Allen Poe wrote about horror that made you think.  We had an awesome librarian who took the time to understand our preferences and would always offer suggestions.

Then, it was off to university and again, reading habits changed.  There was a great deal of reading, to be sure, but it was related to the courses I was taking.  I started to enjoy reading about mathematics and also about learning theorists – Pavlov, Skinner, Thorndike, etc.  I even took a course titled “The History of Education” to get more into this.  One Christmas, I got a subscription to Games Magazine and I became a collector.  I couldn’t get enough of the stories and, of course, the games.

In my first teaching job, I had the best of teacher-librarians.  He would buy as much as he could and often would hit up the principal for more money when he could.  We expanded the collection of computer-related books in the collection and there was a listing on my blackboard of the new titles to encourage students to check them out.  At the same time, I brought my archive of Games Magazines into the classroom.  They were a favourite among students for a number of reasons; the most satisfying would be when the high flyers would see a puzzle and attempt to turn it into a computer program.

Later, as a computer consultant for the district, reading became an important part of my job.  I needed to stay on top of the software that we were using, trends in the use of technology, reach into all subject areas and grade levels, and prepare for Computer Contact meetings.  Attendees expected to be pushed and so I needed to do my homework.  It was really rewarding work when it helped make for well-received workshops and presentations.  One of the best comments I ever received was that people waited in anticipation not knowing what would be on the agenda.  It was random/abstract, sort of like this blog can be at times.

These days, I still do a great deal of reading, but it’s different.  I enjoy reading blogs and technical articles.  It’s a different type of reading but equally as satisfying for me.  For the most part, it’s digital to me.  There’s so much available just a click or a tap away.  I know, from talking with friends, that there are many who still read recreationally and there are just as many who don’t read at all except to skim the local newspaper.

So, back to Aviva’s original question and I’m going to point my finger directly at standardized testing.  With the importance of school results, it seems to have spawned a whole breed of experts who want to teach students how to read for meaning and understanding.  There is a price to be paid and I think you can see it in a few areas.  We now have reading as a teaching qualification and the whole concept of reading has changed with a focus of improving scores.  Reading for enjoyment is often mentioned in passing but the real focus is improving scores.  Another sad price is the demise of the teacher-librarian in many cases.  Maybe there was a time when the librarian’s raison d’être was checking in and out of books.  Today’s teacher-librarian is so much more.  He/she is the ultimate understander of all curriculum, of all learning styles, of all genres of books/reading (including digital literacies), and more.

But, when a library just becomes a short field trip to grab some books and return to the classroom and not take advantage of everything that’s available, the kids are watching.  If a viable and active library isn’t considered the learning and reading centre of the school, what model for reading is being observed?  Certainly, there’s the paper resources but as schools and districts expand their resources into digital, expertise is needed there as well.

What are your thoughts?

  • Have your personal reading habits changed?
  • Do you have a school library that’s central to all things learning or is it just a repository for books?
  • Do you have a fully qualified teacher-librarian in your school?  If not, is the love of reading still there?
  • What’s the latest thing you’ve read?  (excluding this blog post)
  • Do you think that reading digitally is significantly different from reading a paper book?

Please tell all!

Got an idea for this Sunday series of memories?  Please visit this Padlet and add your idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!

2 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Doug, thanks for choosing this topic and sharing so many thoughts and experiences here! While the type of reading materials are different (I never read comic books or computer science magazines — although I do read a lot of blogs, largely thanks to your recommendations), my reading behaviours have also changed much as you highlighted here. I also do a lot of personal reading over holiday times (usually mystery, suspense, or humour novels). I think that my mom had the same belief as your mom, and this thinking has really stuck with me. I wonder if our moms had it right, even when it comes to standardized tests. Despite the lack of time in school nowadays for “pleasure reading,” we still have students struggling with reading comprehension and decoding skills. Our scores could probably always use improvement (if this is what people are focused on). I wonder if part of the problem lies in lack of meaningful practice. Do we need to apply what we’ve been taught to our own reading, and would this happen more naturally if we read more? Good readers use many of these “taught skills” almost without thinking about them. If we let kids choose what they read, and provide opportunities to read often, will we also facilitate the growth of more “good readers?” This is just some of my thinking. I’m curious to hear what others think.

    Aviva

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I read a lot for fun. A lot of science fiction, next inline are thrillers (Tom Clancy for example) and a lot of non fiction. I love to read history. Currently I am working my way through the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes stories which I was able to get for free on Kindle.
    My librarian wife is a past master at recommending books for students to read for fun. She reads an amazing number of young adult books so that she can recommend books to students based on their interests and the books they have enjoyed in the past.

    Liked by 1 person

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