This week, I had the chance to read some more from reading choice expert, Penny Kittle. In her book titled Book Love, Kittle advocates for the importance of letting students self select their own books. She shares testimony of students that have experienced major growth as readers, and the impact that reading choice has had on them.
From the start of her book, I’ve been on board with the idea of book choice. Allowing students to select their own books helps them develop positive attitudes towards reading. It prepares them to become life long readers. Book choice can also help students build up stamina to tackle harder titles!
The piece of this puzzle that I was still struggling with is how to get students to make that jump from their favorites that are comfortable, to more challenging texts. From my reading adventures this semester, I can attest to two things. The first being, when I choose a book that I like, I have a great reading experience. The second being, I immediately go try to find five others like it. No matter how good my intentions are, it takes a lot of self-control to read new or more challenging texts. So, if I struggle to take that leap, how can I expect my students to?
Long story short, reflection is key. Kittle talks about how student need to set reading goals (readers have plans!). She writes that it’s also important to sit down with the student and reflect on their reading plans. Ask them to identify what makes a book difficult for them and analyze things like their reading rate. From here, help the student look at how their previous goals went, and help them form new ones. Perhaps they come to the realization after analyzing their reading that they should choose a text with easier or harder vocabulary. Or maybe they realize they’ve been on a SciFi bing and want to try a different genre. Getting students to develop this metacognition about their reading habits will help them to develop goals that will ultimately expand their reading horizon.
I think that having students reflect on their reading and set their own goals will ultimately yield more success. I could tell a student that they need to read a more difficult text, but if they come to that conclusion from self-reflection, it’s going to be WAY more powerful. This self-guided process also provides a sort of differentiation that requires very little prep work from the teacher. A win win, right? While I never doubted the book choice model, it has finally come full circle in my mind. Now that I have seen it from every angle, I could fully support, defend, and implement a book choice program in my classroom.