Monday, January 25, 2010

Active Readers Select Books

As I have said time and time again here - kids need to be taught and told that they are in charge of their reading lives. The more power they feel, the more active they will be.

Take selecting books. Many kids don't know how to do it on their own. They have either been told by an adult what "section" or "level" they must choose from, or books are simply given to them and they must read them.

There are always a few kids every year in my classes that go home and tell their parents "She lets US choose books from ALL her library!" This saddens me. From even the earliest days, children should be selecting books to read. Not that we can't guide them, but they should be doing this for a few reasons:
  • Power
  • Responsibility
  • Develops Knowledge of what they understand/don't understand in books
  • Develops awareness of what they like/don't like
  • Gives them sense of success in choice/failure in choice so they know more how to select next time

My philosophy in education is to empower them. I can teach them things, but the best education is one where they learn HOW to learn.

Selecting books is one.

I begin by asking kids how they choose books. Some have blank stares, some say they get books from series they have read before, some get recommendations from others - most of the time, they don't give me this reason, however, which is probably the most common way...

THEY LOOK AT THE COVER. Yeah, yeah, "don't judge a book..." BUT THEY DO. They will tell you flat out whether they want to read it or not just by looking at it. Attractive picture? You bet they want to read it.

This is all fine, by the way, but we want to expand their horizons.

I have a few suggestions. I ask them to get their minds ready for this book. They need to look at the cover, and think - What do I think this is about? What do I wonder? What do I already know?

Then move to either the back of the book at the "blurb" or on the inside flap of the book jacket. It will give you an idea about the book. I am going to go into how important this is on another day.

The blurb will not only give you an idea about the story, but it will give you an idea if is a just right level for you. If you struggle to make sense of that little part, it's probably too hard.

However, I do want them to OPEN the book. To read a few pages...just one or two. Get a feel for the story, and how it is written. Is it a just right book? Did they do the five finger rule?

Later, after they are aware of themselves as readers, they have strategies, and they know more about authors and genres, this will get easier.

For the library! Give them choice - teach them how to do it on their own, and don't worry, they can handle it!

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