Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Future of Reading
Students Get New Assignment: Pick Books You Like
By MOTOKO RICH in The New York Times. August 29, 2009

ONESBORO, Ga. — For years Lorrie McNeill loved teaching “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Harper Lee classic that many Americans regard as a literary rite of passage.

But last fall, for the first time in 15 years, Ms. McNeill, 42, did not assign “Mockingbird” — or any novel. Instead she turned over all the decisions about which books to read to the students in her seventh- and eighth-grade English classes at Jonesboro Middle School in this south Atlanta suburb.
Among their choices: James Patterson‘s adrenaline-fueled “Maximum Ride” books, plenty of young-adult chick-lit novels and even the “Captain Underpants” series of comic-book-style novels.
But then there were students like Jennae Arnold, a soft-spoken eighth grader who picked challenging titles like “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, of which she wrote, partly in text-message speak: “I would have N3V3R thought of or about something like that on my own.”

The approach Ms. McNeill uses, in which students choose their own books, discuss them individually with their teacher and one another, and keep detailed journals about their reading, is part of a movement to revolutionize the way literature is taught in America’s schools. While there is no clear consensus among English teachers, variations on the approach, known as reading workshop, are catching on.
Read the full piece at NYT.
(This is the fourth in a series of articles that look at how reading — and learning to read — is changing. Sidebar: Required and Not (August 30, 2009) The Future of Reading: In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update (February 16, 2009) The Future of Reading: Using Video Games as Bait to Hook Readers (October 6, 2008) The Future of Reading: Literacy )

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