I have recently completed the Critical Thinking Conference in Berkley, California, so I have been trying to “think critically.” As I sat though several of the sessions, I considered how our school’s used book classroom libraries, with their increase in titles, might be viewed by students in grades 7-12 this coming September. Could I use a step on a critical thinking “logic wheel” where a topic or idea is consider from one or multiple points of view in order to prepare for student response this coming school year? I thought about our most recent reading survey.
The English Department developed and gave a reading survey for grades 7-11 in March 2011. Our students were asked to rate themselves as a reader and explain that rating. The students were very candid in their responses.
There were students who rated themselves as self-motivated readers:
“I rated myself as a good reader because I love to read and spend a lot of time doing it.”
“I rated myself with Eager Reader because I love to read! I have read about 10-12 books in a 2 month period. I read every night and whenever I have extra time.”
I anticipate that these students will enjoy having choice, however, I also realize these students would be just as happy reading assigned core novels.
In contrast, there were students who rated themselves as reluctant readers who were quite blunt in stating they did not like to read or did not read at all:
“because i usually never read. It shows in my english grade.”
“not a good reader i have an xbox 360.”
“I would rather sleep.”
I anticipate that the increase in titles for these readers will probably be overwhelming. These students will probably need more time to explore what books they should choose and will need serious coaching to see they complete reading at all!
Over 60% of our students, however, indicated that they would like to have more choice in what they read. They rated themselves as good, casual or average readers across all grade levels. They expressed their frustrations with assigned reading quite clearly:
“I only want to read books I pick out for myself. There is a rare chance that my peers and myself will like the book the teacher picks out.”
“Sometimes I want to read, sometimes I don’t. Most of the time, I enjoy reading the books that I have to read for class. I always enjoy reading the books I pick because I only pick books that I like. I read when I want to, where I want to, and what I want to.”
” Sometimes the books we read in school aren’t interesting and that gets me to dislike reading. I used to read more.”
“I am almost a “reluctant reader” because I do not like to read the books we are assigned in school.”
“Because I often feel like im forced to read something when i was like 5 years old so now I have that habit.”
“I really do love to read, however, I hate most of the books assigned to me in the classroom. The only material I usually like to read is sociology or psychology related. I have enjoyed only a few books that I have been assigned in class, one of them being Wuthering Heights.”
These voices are the target audience for the used book classroom. 60% of students said they will read if given the choice; they will practice good reading habits if, like adults, they select what interests them enough to read. Choice is a step to being a life-long reader.
There will still be assigned reading, but the focus in the coming year will be to allow for more student choice in reading. In order to meet student needs and interests, we will be offering more independent reading, more titles, and hopefully, engaging more readers. As I try to “think critically”, I am more convinced that the used book market will continue to be a resource for us in meeting the demands of students’ multiple points of view in how -and what- they read.