December 7, 2009

A Passion For Reading


Steven L. Layne has a new book coming out that looks good. Igniting a Passion for Reading (via Practically Paradise). On the Stenhouse site you can look at a Flash version of the book and read as much of it as your eyeballs can take in that format.

I've scanned some of it and can't wait to read the whole thing. It's about bringing much-needed balance to the teaching of reading, something I'm all for. The NCTE has recently drunk the Kool-Aid and according to Krashen and Ohanian, is promoting the LEARN Act which calls for explicit, systematic teaching of literacy as the only way, even more testing, and pays little attention to access of actual books. This is not balance, my friends.

Layne has a diagram on page seven that has a bisected circle. On the left half are all the things the LEARN Act promotes (along with every teacher, administrator, and stakeholder): Phonetics, Fluency, Comprehension, Semantics, Syntax. We're doing a pretty good job of all that and I am not arguing that any of these skills should be sacrificed. Either is Layne. But there's another half of the circle that we are totally leaving by the wayside and you need that half if you want to be a whole reader:

Interest
Attitude
Motivation
Engagement

But how will we test those things, you ask? I don't really care. I just know it is something that is sorely lacking and if we don't do something about it we might as well give up the whole game. The entire point of having mandatory public schooling is to improve our democracy. It's not to have better test scores, Dolores Umbridge. If we don't have curious, teachable, engaged readers and thinkers (no matter their level or ability) then we're not really doing our job. (And as a byproduct of real engageent, the test scores go up!)

It's like baseball or ballet. Yes, you need to practice skills. But you also need to just play games and dance or what are you learning all those skills for?

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."


(This quotation is said to be from a sign hanging in Albert Einstein's Princeton office and is often attributed to him. Anyone done more research on it?)

2 comments:

Victoria said...

More thoughtful comments...thank you! Recently Noah needed a book to read for class and he grabbed a Captain Underpants book (read ad nauseum), so Michael and I said to step out of his comfort zone of dirty laundry superheros and find a different book. He looked around the house and said he couldn't find anything to read. I think Michael and I both became apoplectic and indignant. I think he settled on Nim's Island (figuratively). Just recently your wife's book collection has sparked his reading and he is enjoying (insert smile) The Lightning Thief. We are also reading, as a family, Simon Bloom: The Octopus Effect.
Better test scores should only be a bonus.

Teacherninja said...

The Lightening Thief is great. If he likes Capt. Underpants as much as I do he may also like The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, David Lubar's stories, the Bone Series, Hank the Cow Dog, Daniel Pinkwater books, Jon Scieszka's Knucklehead, and of course Calvin & Hobbs.