Stop Glorifying Indifference to Literature writes Diana Sencheal on The Core Knowledge Blog.
A New York Times story on the “reading workshop” method praises a teacher who lets her middle school students pick all the books they read. Some prefer Captain Underpants. The classics she used to teach — To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Anne Frank — are sent to a storage closet.
. . . fans of the reading workshop say that assigning books leaves many children bored or unable to understand the texts. Letting students choose their own books, they say, can help to build a lifelong love of reading.
“I feel like almost every kid in my classroom is engaged in a novel that they’re actually interacting with,” Ms. McNeill said, several months into her experiment. “Where as when I do ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,” I know that I have some kids that just don’t get into it.”
This is a teacher who didn’t like reading literature when she was a child in school, Senechal points out. She didn’t like Huckleberry Finn!
This so-called movement is led by people who don’t love literature enough to defend it, and who don’t care about history enough to find out that their revolution is nothing revolutionary. It glorifies a certain indifference.
The movement writes off the literature itself. It writes off the teachers who teach it well and inspire their students to love it. It writes off the possibility that literature will affect students’ entire lives and stay in their minds, in ways that teen novels cannot do.
Many schools have a daily reading period in which students read whatever book they like — though there seems to be no correlation between free reading and reading ability. Teaching fewer set books and providing more opportunities for students to analyze their own choices could make sense. But why drop all common reading?
Robert Pondiscio, who was trained in Readers’ Workshop but found it ineffective, offers a comentary mash-up.