SOL16 Day 9 of 31: Allowing Kids to Select What They Read

IMG_0785Everyone has a story and you can catch up on more slices for the  SOLSC at
Two Writing Teachers.

Jen Robinson has a terrific POST about limiting student free choice in reading doesn’t make avid readers.  There are several things happening in schools that are limiting student choice.

Our district is currently using Lightsail for classroom reading.  It’s an ebook library that reigns in the books students can read based on their level of reading.  The selections seem limited for elementary and for emerging readers.  There is a sizable budget to purchase more ebooks (read I would LOVE to have that budget for print).  Plus it’s funded through a grant and I just wonder what will happen when the grant is over.  How will it be funded?

During library, I highly encourage students to check out at least one book that would be considered a “good fit” book (read at their level). But their other choices in books are their choices.   If a student wants to read a book that is easy and fun, great.  If they want to choose a book that’s considered beyond their level that’s fine too.

Which brings me to today.

In two classes, I had teachers making statements about the books their students had chosen.  One said that a book the student checked out wouldn’t be read because the student was reading at a lower level.  So?  Maybe they love the subject, maybe it will challenge them and maybe they’ll return it.

It reminded me of my reading Beloved by Toni Morrison.  I’ve read that book four times and I still think it’s a challenging book for me.  Each time I have read the book, something new is revealed.

My oldest grand child is working her way through Coraline by Neil Gaiman.  It’s another very tricky book to read with its parallel universes.  Grand child has been told it’s a book to read as it’s above her level.  Determined to finish it, we have this conversation about its level every time we talk.  Why can’t we talk about reading what we love?

In the other class today, the teacher was disturbed that students returned with some of the Piggy and Elephant books by Mo Willems (was told they’re baby books).  I talked this teacher off the ledge of concern by saying we’d been discussing the EVERYBODY books, the picture books because they are going to vote on a book for the principal to read at the book fair.

Does it matter if the students read ‘easy” books?  Do they have that just right book as well?  I like to read books that are lighter in tone especially after reading books with somber themes or books that have been a challenge to read.

I wonder what we are teaching our kids about being avid readers?  I am so thankful that I grew up in a house where I was allowed to read anything.  Maybe I had to learn reading through the SRA kits of the sixties(which I loved going through all the colored levels) but my library books were 100% my choice.


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3 Responses to SOL16 Day 9 of 31: Allowing Kids to Select What They Read

  1. writintime says:

    I think a lot depends on how we “sell” the idea of growing as a reader. This is our first year implementing Reading Workshop and I believe my kids understand that the work they are doing as readers needs to be done in the appropriate level book. Beyond that they know they can indulge in the books they dream of reading! Thanks for your post, it raised really good points!

  2. newtreemom says:

    Important ideas here. I’ve always loved reading, loved books. I knew how to read before i went to school, where I read with Dick and Jane. As well as I can remember, I was free to choose any books I wanted from the library. I remember only one time having a choice questioned…more or less being made fun of for picking such an easy book. It hurt. I don’t remember the story or the author, but I remember it was a small, square book, it was yellow, and it had an umbrella in the illustration on the cover. I liked it. What difference did it make if it was easy? By the way, this happened over 50 years ago and I still remember feeling shamed for my choice!

  3. Jen Robinson says:

    Thanks for linking to my post, Jone, and for the discussion on Facebook that helped lead to that post in the first place. I so agree that it shouldn’t matter if kids want to read easier OR harder books. This past weekend I read six books – three of them were basically illustrated chapter books, two were middle grade, and one was YA. I was listening to an adult mystery on my phone. No one tells me I can’t do this. Telling kids they can’t read certain books (especially books that they love that are easy for them to read) is doing them a disservice, I think.

    I’m grateful that I have a lot of books in my house. Even if my daughter’s school library enforces rules about reading levels (not sure about that yet), she’ll have plenty to chose from at home…

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