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From Yoakum, Missouri USA
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Joined Saturday, November 24, 2012
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Where Does a Love of Reading Come From?
An article on Sunday about one English teacher's conversion from assigning classics like "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Lord of the Flies" to a method that allowed her students to choose their own class reading, is eliciting passionate comments from readers -- more than 400.

Some loved the method embraced by Lorrie McNeill, who teaches seventh- and eighth-graders in Jonesboro, Ga.; others detested it. A reader who identified himself as Greg from North Carolina responded to the article with the following: "if we aren't going to consider the quality of what is being read, then a love of reading is no more or less beneficial than a love of television-watching, slot-car-racing, or pizza-eating. The student who loves reading 'Captain Underpants' but who is never forced to move beyond that material has done nothing to prepare for a life of active, intelligent, inquisitive citizenship (which is something training in the humanities ought to prepare us for) and has been poorly served by her educators.

"It sounds as though teachers such as Ms. McNeill are presenting reading to students as a hobby, not an academic discipline. Undoubtedly it can be both. But we don't send our children to school just to pick up hobbies."

I responded here. It is a valid question, and one that other readers explore in the context of science or math education: would students ever learn difficult equations or formulas if they were allowed to choose what to study in these classes?

It is true that education is not merely about fun, but also about discipline and exposure to ideas that students would not come across on their own. The question that teachers like Ms. McNeill and her mentor, Nancie Atwell, are grappling with is how to make students most receptive to those ideas. The traditional approach is to present books to the class as a mandated group exercise. Several readers have argued here - and I also experienced it in my own education --that a good teacher can inspire students to understand and enjoy the most challenging works. There are wonderful examples of students who never would have read or understood "The Waste Land" or Plato or "Ulysses" or "Great Expectations" or (insert your favorite classic here) if not for a great teacher.

Ms. Atwell and Ms. McNeill believe that the first step toward introducing such works to students is to persuade them that reading can be fun. Otherwise, too many of them will be so resistant that they may not read the assigned classics anyway. Of course it is not clear that all students who begin to enjoy reading will eventually read more challenging or classic works. But most of the teachers who use reading workshop make a concerted effort to guide their students to more challenging books.

Of the many readers who say they love books, I'm curious: how many of you discovered that love in school, and how many found it at home, through the guidance of parents, siblings and friends? And for those of you who learned to love reading at school, was it because a teacher assigned a book you would never have otherwise read, or because you were allowed to choose books you wanted to read? Share your thoughts.

Also in the Series: The Digital Librarian | The Video Game Strategy | Digital Versus Print

Also, Room for Debate has this discussion on whether children should get a break from school assignments during vacation.

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