One of my favorite things about teaching was Independent Reading. No matter what grade I was teaching, or which level, whether it was regular English or Creative Writing or Intro to Journalism and Broadcasting, we would stop for half an hour every Friday to read in silence. The students would bring books of their own choice and we’d just kick back. The only thing you’d hear was pages turning. Sometimes we’d get to the end of our thirty minutes and take a vote to see if we should keep reading for another ten. Sometimes, after that, we’d take another vote.
Please don’t tell me that teenagers don’t like to read. They might not like to read what’s required, but whose fault is that?
I taught one “Standard” level 9th grade English class with 12 boys and 2 girls. Some of the kids had never finished reading a book in their entire lives. We decided to do an experiment and read for half an hour every day for four weeks, just independent reading of books the students chose themselves: Crash, Twilight, Scar Tissue, Bleachers, Flipped, Calvin and Hobbes, Eragon, you name it. At the end of four weeks, most of the kids were reading with a fluency and comprehension they’d never had before. Some liked reading and felt successful at it for the first time ever, at age 14. I can’t remember what I skipped in the curriculum to make it happen, but was it worth it? I’d say so. Wouldn’t it be nice if we let teachers let students have what they really need? They’ll suck in what they want to learn like Slurpees up big straws.
Today on the Promised Blog Tour, Emily at The Ninja Librarian asks me how my teaching influenced my writing, and whether I thought of my novels for “reading across the curriculum” when I was writing them. I’ll tell you now, I learned far more as a teacher than I ever taught.