As the parent of a voracious and a reluctant reader, and as a teacher librarian seeing students passing through the library on either side of the spectrum or somewhere inbetween – the magic involved in creating self-motivated readers is one that is very close to my heart.
Two of the speakers touched on this theme. Firstly Dr. Krashen with his talk on “The Great Fiction / Nonfiction Debate” and then Dr. Samuel Chu with “Interest and Ability through Gamification“. It was greatly unfortunate that there just was not enough time for the issues to be discussed and debated at length given the very tight schedule, so I’d like to take this further in this blog. I’d also like to plant the seed of thought that perhaps some of this has to do with culture – reading culture, testing culture, exam culture, learning culture, curriculum culture, homework culture, competitive culture. Some has to do with availability and accessibility – of role models, of suitable books in the home, the school, the classroom, the (public / school) library and of course the availability of time.
Dr. Krashen successfully demolished the four fallacies of not allowing students unlimited self-selected pleasure reading of fiction
- not academic
- doesn’t provide knowledge
- doesn’t challenge the mind
- students stick with easy books
Now for the meat … the audience was fairly evenly divided between those who support and those who oppose incentivising reading, with myself somewhere in the middle. There comes a point I think in every parent and every educator’s life when the go for “whatever works” for whichever student. Having spent 12 years in Asia, 3 of them with my kids being educated in a Chinese system, and the most of the rest of my parental life in other countries, I’m no longer amazed, confused, appalled or otherwise phased by how any one culture or community attempts to turn their offspring from mewling babies into functional adults. Even within my household, sample size 2, what works for the one, definitely doesn’t work for the other. Let’s say I now find everything “interesting” with the possibility for implementation wholesale or diluted in my professional and personal practice. Apart from scolding and beating or otherwise abusing kids physically or verbally.
Those opposed pointed to Alfie Kohn’s “Punished by Rewards” and
Some of the responses above pointed to the AR (accelerated reader) program – that has its fans and opponents including the fact that it’s commercially driven and doesn’t have a lasting effect over time (Pavonetti et.al) – I would like to point out here, that even Miller bemoans the fact that once her students move onto another teacher without the same structure and passion for FVR the reading of her ex-students drops off.
I also have to wonder about the type of language being read. Just about every (highly) literate native Chinese speaker has lamented to me that once their children become fluent English readers they will eschew reading in Chinese for reading in English. We make an argument in FVR that it doesn’t matter what children read as long as they are reading … (although if you read what all the “gurus” have to say, it’s not quite as free and easy as all that, and the students under their care are heavily guided towards good children’s literature – which doesn’t by the way equate with “classics”, just in case you wondered). Does this argument hold for it not mattering in which language you read? I would argue very strongly that it matters very much in which language you are reading.
I don’t have any answers here, but would like to see what people have to say…