George Lucas Educational Foundation

The Case for Literature by Nancie Atwell

The Case for Literature by Nancie Atwell

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"Concerned parents, teachers, and professional organizations need to lobby legislators and other policymakers to put children’s and young-adult literature at the center of standards for the teaching of reading. The opportunity for every student to sit quietly and become immersed in an actual book may not be high-tech, instantly quantifiable, or lucrative for the College Board. It just happens to be the only way that anyone ever became a reader." --Nancie Atwell The whole article.

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Christi's picture

Nancy Atwell's book The Reading Zone gave me permission to do just what my 4th graders needed--LET them read! I have a classroom library tailored for this age group and I see child after child metamorphose into life long lovers of literature. . .they say over and over, "I never liked reading before." Their parents are amazed at their voracious appetites for good books. . .I just have to keep trying to convince everyone else that these children ARE the product--I don't have to have a sheaf of fill-ins and mind-numbing comprehension questions to prove that they can and do read. I have three copies of this book and give it out to my fellow teachers. . .I think none of them read it. . .it is disheartening to watch fellow teachers continue to beat good stories to death and force children to stab with their pencils "proof of reading". . .

Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts


How do any of you feel about Accelerated Reader? I am afraid to ask. I love to teach Literature. I want my students to hold and hug and take their books all over with them. To their dental appointments, on vacation, everywhere and as they jump into bed with their nite lite on. READING IS A GIFT and A BOOK IS HEAVEN!!

I teach critical thinking and discussing and chewing up the gut of the book. Let's talk and discuss and compare and contrast together,let's laugh and cry, let's talk about the wonderful survival of the protagonist and how dare the antagonist. Let's question the values and the time period and mostly I want to put myself in the other person's shoes for just an hour and ask my students to do the same. Pleas take notes and make notes in the books (if you own them) and you must be able to keep the notes in front of you writing the report.

I have books I NEVER want to EVER give away or share. They are my DEAR friends. I give books as a gift. Book Stores are dangerous for me, I have to leave my credit card at home. I warn my students that some stories you need coffee to stay up all night to finish the book!

A computerized reading/book "report" test is gastly!! We are not allowing our children to get off the computer and write a wonderful thoughtful, book report. Instead, we are creating less creativity and more robotics in school. No matter what, they are reading and pushing a button, reading and pushing a button, reading and pushing a button. That wonderful book they read is gone, turned in, the student probably forgot the color of the cover, and most likely the biography of the author. Ah, not important!

For the AR test, the questions are there. They do not have to think. They do not have to go out of the box. They do not get the chance to think creatively. They do not get a chance to offer their own opinions and insights. We are creating more robots in society. And, more time on a computer and less time face to face with human beings, their peers, their teachers in a group, or their friends to discuss the book.

When my students hand in a written book report I read them and comment on their positive opinions. They have learned how to write a book report and how to pull apart stories. This is an on going class process connected to the California Standards. They rarely complain!

School districts buy this because who thought about this? Someone who sat on a computer and went to a school where the arts were not important and never understood individuality and creative thinking? I see educators struggle to get students to take AR tests. The issue should not be the TEST. The issue should be READING. We are in an era where the computer is more important than anything, including reading a book.

The technology is great, but it is an addiction. We need our students writing book reports, not punching in answers. The message we need to send is that we expect them to read and think seriously about what they read and to write seriously about what they read.

Easy, not always. Ever lasting as a lifetiime skill and part of being well educated. I think so.

Charlie Chaplin got it in 1930 in his marvelous silent film MODERN TIMES. Only an artist could see, in silence, the sorrow that was about to befall society. The irony of the arts in education. And, a beautiful book is a work of art.

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