Time to drop the whole-class novel?

It’s time to stop teaching one novel to the whole class, argues Pam Allyn on Ed Week.

Sam, a 12-year-old struggling reader, can enjoy Horton Hears a Who! but can’t decode or comprehend the class book, To Kill a Mockingbird.

He faked his way through it. Ashamed, he did whatever he could to distract the teacher and his fellow students from recognizing his struggle, from fooling around while everyone was reading to acting goofy when the teacher asked a question.

Instead of trying to teach the same novel or story from a basal reader to all students, teachers should let students choose reading that fits their interests and abilities, Allyn argues. Boys, in particular, would benefit from a wider choice of readings.

If a student has found 16 blogs about boats, let him read those in school. And maybe that student will follow one of those blogs to a newspaper series about a regatta, or to Dove, Robin Lee Graham’s personal account of sailing around the world as a teenager. In these ways, our students will be exposed to a wider variety of genres than the whole-class novel ever allowed, and they will be more compelled to think critically across genres, as the common-core standards will require of them.

. . . By reading a lot and reading every day, our students ingest. And the more they ingest, the faster and smoother they read. Stamina is vastly underrated. Reading DK Readers or Harry Potter or game manuals or a thousand mobile texts all help children learn to read longer, stronger, and faster.

If a teacher thinks it’s important for every student to read a certain book, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, read it aloud in class, Allyn suggests.

She seems to be designing the whole reading program for the kids who can’t read very well. Some won’t be passionate readers of anything. Is there a middle ground?