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Both teacher and student selected texts have value. If students know that their teacher values them and is willing to listen, it could have a profound effect in the classroom. Why are we reading 'insert title here'?? Is it because it has been on the required reading list at our school for 42 years?? Student voice can be powerful and can create buy-in that a mere mortal teacher could not structure otherwise.
It would be nice to have that as a collaborative effort. If the students know you value their opinions and there are specific reasons for reading from either list. Why are we reading "insert title here"?? Is it because it has been on the required reading list at our school for 42 years?? Student voice can be powerful for students and their learning.
They should be allowed to read books they choose as well as assigned.
I agree that it should be both. Teachers can provide a list of books from which students can choose, so that high-quality books choices are informed by sound pedagogy AND students can have choice, which is an important motivator. Additionally, reading texts in common is also a valuable learning experience. Balance is essential.
Todays students are fortunate to have a vast array of books to choose from and often they make good choices for what they are interested in reading. But as was stated earlier, if students are in AP level classes, their reading choices should be guided to provide them with the depth of information AP tests demand. Also, providing students some insights as to why a certain reading selection is assigned can be a big help.
There should be a balance. I give students choices within certain parameters for literature units. For book reports, students are allowed to read whatever they would like to read as long as it is at their reading level.
Students should have some choice in their books based on their interests and the topics being studied in class. I believe in reading across the curriculum, that the literature studied in English should have reference to current social studies or science topics.
For book reports they should have a great deal of choice. However, the books they choose should come from an acceptable list in order to avoid their choosing books that are too easy or too hard and the lists individualized based on the abilities of the students. However, a student with poor reading skills might benefit a book that includes an audio or electronic copy.
Some books, classics and culturally related books, should be automatically included for all students at each grade level in order to facilitate discussion skills and class unity, and so that there is a body of common knowledge.(Again, including an audio version will help the slower ones keep up.)
At other times, particular books on certain topics might be assigned in order to challenge certain students, although this would be more Social Studies than English. For example if a student is a politically active liberal, he might be asked to read Sarah Palin's GOING ROGUE, while I once assigned Congressman John Lewis's WALKING WITH THE WIND to an active Republican. Of course this type of assignment would occur at the high school level, but if the teacher would not get in trouble, discussion of political issues might help students become aware of more than video games and the opposite sex.
As a reading and English teacher at the high school level, I definitly believe that student choices work best at first. By the time these students get to me they are struggling so hard at reading that they hate it and if I gave them the core literature (district chosen) books, they may start a bond fire with them. I have to first get them hooked on reading and reading for pleasure before I can start them on the classics. Shakespeare is definitely out in the freshman and sophomore years.
Arguments can be made for both sides of this question. Obviously, students are more likely to read when they can choose what they like to read. Reading for pleasure and personal enjoyment is a habit that must be encouraged and developed over time. However, students left to their own resources will often choose "easy" books just to meet classroom reading requirements, rather than challenging themselves with more difficult material; and standards of excellence can only be maintained when certain materials are required reading. How many students would choose to read Shakespeare on their own, for example? A well-rounded education can only be achieved by broad, well-rounded reading experience on all levels.
I am also a school librarian and former English teacher. I have struggled through teaching the classics, only to watch in amazement as so-called non readers were turned on to reading when given the chance to choose their own selections. There are certainly books that all students should be exposed to, as a matter of cultural literacy and discipline. At the same time, the quality of YA literature has improved so much in the last few years. How can we not encourage that? Research tells us the way to improve reading skills is to read. We must provide our students with that opportunity by allowing choices and exposing them to quality YA literature.