Choice Means Everything to Readers
- Grades: 6–8
I have found that letting middle school students passionately pursue their interests with independent reading is the best way to hook them on print or e-books. Last year a seventh grade girl said she would read only if I could find books about vampires. She had exhausted the few books in her school’s library, so I raided our area public library and my personal collection and found five books about vampires that she could read at school during independent reading time. Shocked and pleased that I had heard her request and took the time to locate books she might enjoy, this student immersed herself in the world of vampires during class and at home. Enthusiasm radiated from her book talks, and eventually, she branched out to reading realistic fiction and short stories that her peers recommended. Sometimes we feel obliged to have students read materials that parents, districts, and the Common Core feel are acceptable choices. However, I find that letting students use topics they love to turn them onto reading is a great way to go. It sure worked for me; I read Wonder Woman comics and True Confessions magazines in eighth grade and can and love to read as an adult! We are teaching 21st century kids who crave edgy topics and have interests and passions they care about and usually pursue outside of school if districts don’t sanction and honor student choices.
Let me know how you feel about developing students’ personal reading lives through choice and honoring their intense interests—as long as the materials are acceptable in a middle school classroom.