*Brushes the dust off of blog* Cough cough
So my life has been consumed by student teaching this semester, which has been a really valuable experience thus far. My Curriculum and Instruction teacher asked us to choose a book-length text about education to read for the semester along with our student teaching, and I chose Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers by Penny Kittle. It was a really good read and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in youth literacy.
The book was really inspiring because Penny Kittle voiced a lot of the things that I believe about reading as a young person, like how high school English classes typically ruin reading for kids because they force books on students that they aren’t ready for. How do you expect a kid to enjoy Moby Dick when they haven’t first developed “Book Love?”
In the book, Kittle outlines her ELA curriculum – a curriculum I find difficult to believe is accepted in a public high school, especially in the age of Common Core – which is based off of the belief that students must be guided toward Book Love independently, discovering their reading potential for themselves. The students in Penny’s classes are allowed to choose their reading material for the whole year. They keep lists of books they want to read next and track their reading speed progress and the difficulty level of the texts they choose. Penny gives book talks periodically to give suggestions to reluctant readers. She also holds one-on-one conferences with each student every so often to keep track of their progress, and students keep journals for various writing reflections and exercises on what they are reading.
I am not surprised at the amount of success her program has seen – bringing non-readers to “Book Love” in the span of one semester or less. But I am skeptical as to how this works in public school – she seems to me to be playing the role of a glorified librarian rather than an English teacher. I think the system is fantastic (if I could teach this curriculum for the rest of my life, I would be living my dream!). But I wonder whether or not something like this should be implemented earlier, in middle school, when the “Book Love” that may still exist in students has not yet been stifled by school; that way they are able to read and enjoy the texts typically included in high school curricula.
Just gave me some interesting things to think about during my teaching – like how can I work with students in a “normal” English curriculum to inspire greater Book Love? It’s a difficult job. One that I hope to work on somehow, somewhere, whether I end up in a public school, a library, or a non-profit. (Can you tell I’ve been working on my job applications?) Regardless of how or where, Book Love is what I want to create.