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Why Reading Workshop Works

In her recent article in Instructor magazine, called “The Pleasure Principle,” author Nancie Atwell asks, “If we can agree that a goal of education is for children to become skilled, passionate, habitual, critical readers, why does so much of what goes on in the name of teaching reading prevent kids from experiencing the satisfaction of books?” Here’s a taste of her new book The Reading Zone:

"One of our primary goals as reading teachers is to eliminate—or at least reduce—frustration. We want to make reading easy. In our workshops, teachers start by being honest with kids about what we do as readers. We acknowledge the guilt many of us grew up with—the feeling that there’s a proper, rigorous way to read and that somehow we’re not doing it right—so we can help our students navigate books with pleasure and confidence. I let them know that serious, joyful, engaged, critical readers make choices about how, why, and what they read. In reading workshops, children are encouraged to skim, skip, and look ahead. Abandoning a book that a reader isn’t enjoying is viewed as a smart move, not a character defect. Students learn that the desire to reenter a beloved book isn’t cheating, it’s a benchmark of someone who is becoming a reader... Virginia Woolf said, 'Literature is no one's private ground, literature is a common ground; let us trespass freely and fearlessly.' A writing workshop takes down the Keep Off the Grass signs. It invites young readers to explore and enjoy the lushest landscapes on earth, and through booktalks and conversations, it recommends the worthwhile, scenic routes."



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