And soon, my own fear was confirmed. Many agreed; when we dictate genres it is almost the same as dictating books. What we want is for kids to read widely (Thanks Donalyn!), not selectively and whenever we mess with choice we may end up turning kids away from reading completely.
Yet, my reasoning remains; I want to expose students to new genres. As one student told me yesterday, if she had not been “forced” to read a historical fiction book she would have never known how much fun they would be. And yet, it is the whole “force” I have such a problem with. I was forced to read certain books in school and I hardly ever enjoyed them. I would read them as fast as I could, slowing down only enough to answer the mandatory question sheet and then resume the book I really wanted to read. Just the act of “having to” read a certain book ensured that it never made my top ten list of best books read that year. I don’t want to do the same to my students.
Yet, as teachers, there seems to be times when we have to “force” things on students. Otherwise we worry they will not be well-rounded learners. They might not be ready for the next step in their education, they might not be ready for the adult world. Or will they? Can we let students choose their own education and still become successful adults within a public school setting? I don’t have the answer.
So I will call a morning huddle today, lay my fears on the line, my dilemma and see what the kids come up with. Perhaps we will just read whatever we want. Perhaps we will have 4 free choice books and 2 from new genres. Perhaps, I will ask them to just read as much as they can in the limited time we have left. I don’t know what will happen but I know my students will have ideas if I only listen. I know they will set me back on track, they always do.