Who decides what kids should read?
By Morgan on December 4th, 2009
From The New York Times to EdWeek and, I’m sure, to school administration offices and classrooms throughout the country, a debate is brewing: who should choose kids’ reading assignments – teachers and school officials, or the kids themselves?
As I read last week’s EdWeek piece, which handles the debate with insight, I pulled out my time machine and traveled way back to the mid-90s, when I was in high school.
I was, and am, a passionate reader, and my high school curriculum was filled to the brim with fantastic selections which have remained some of my favorite books of all time – The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Handmaid’s Tale. But there’s another part to the story of my high school reading list: more than once, a teacher would assign a book or a play that I had no interest in reading. I would look at the cover, read the back copy, and think, “No way am I going to like this.” I guess you could say I was a reluctant reader when the reading wasn’t of my choosing.
But then a funny thing would happen. I would fall in love with the assignment.
Back here in the present, I’m reading the EdWeek article and thinking, wow, it’s definitely cool that students in some schools are able to help choose which books they’ll read throughout the year; that’s certainly a way to engage students (especially reluctant readers) and allow them autonomy over their education. But at the same time, there’s a space – and a need! – for teacher input. I trust teachers. I trust the lessons they impart, the expertise they share, and I even trust them when they hand out books like My Name is Asher Lev, or A Separate Peace, or my ultimate favorite, The Sound and the Fury – all books I never would have read on my own, but which have stuck with me till this day.
I asked the other OOMers which books they loved that, had they not been assigned in a classroom, they probably wouldn’t have read:
Jen: My Antonia by Willa Cather
Tyler: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Sarah: Native Son by Richard Wright
Ivy: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Amanda: Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. She adds, “It was my junior year English class (British Lit) and I had had enough of petticoats and pining. But I ended up riveted, often reading well beyond the chapter assignments each night.”
What about you, readers? Which books would you not have bothered with had they not been assigned by a teacher, yet you ended up loving them?
Photo credit: Ian Wilson
Previously On Our Minds:
Posted: December 4th, 2009 under Books. .