Disclaimer first: I love Scholastic and have for many years. The ease of getting books in the hands of my students, the shiny catalogues that stop our day because we have to circle all of the books we want to read, and also the prices. Scholastic has indeed been good for this teacher. And yet, Scholastic I may have to break it off with you….
In my other post, I first noticed the standardized testing focus that seems to jump form your new pressed pages. As you may know, it broke my heart and many others’. But now I find myself shaking my head even more, not quite sure if I should even send home your lovely catalogue or just keep it to myself. See you went ahead and created leveled catalogues. Probably with great intentions to make book selection easier for kids or to help teachers by grade level appropriate books. But you forgot a couple of things…
My students aren’t levels. They are readers. And they don’t want someone to tell them what a 5th grader should read, they want to trust their own voice as a reader as a pursuer of fantastic stories and knowledge. I teach them to trust themselves. I teach them how to find their perfect book. I know their level but they don’t, they don’t need to to know what they need to do become even stronger readers,
Their grade does not define them. My students read all sorts of books and not because they are “just right” based on an assessment, but because they are just right in interest, in action, in creativity, in mood, in readability. They don’t pick a book because it is perfect for 5th grade. They pick a book because it is perfect for them.
And yet they know their grade. Some of my 5th graders wouldn’t be caught dead reading something someone had labeled a 4th grade book. Even if it was a great book. Even if I thrust it into their hands and told them to trust me. By splashing 4th grade or 3rd grade all over your many colored pages, you have guaranteed that some of my kids will never consider reading those books simply because they are too proud to read something that is labeled for younger kids. And what about when they become 6th graders? Do you think they then want to read 5th grade books? No, that would be for elementary students, not the big middle school students. I am saddened by the books they will miss out on.
And me? I had to pretend I was a 4th, 5th ,and 6th grade teacher to get the catalogues that I want for my students. See some need 4th grade reading levels, while others are ready for middle school action and stories. And I need to be able to supply them that. Yet, I don’t know if I can give them the catalogues anymore, I don’t know quite what will happen if they see the push for standardized testing and the need to level. Will they think that reading is only for tests? Will they think that they can only read certain books because that’s what someone told them?
I don’t think I am ready to take them down that path. I hope you change your mind, Scholastic, perhaps put the levels on the teacher part but not on the flyers. Perhaps, go back to your old ways that were not broken. You don’t have to follow all of the crazy fads happening around us, it is okay to just love reading and let kids love reading too. I haven’t lost the faith in you yet.
Edit: It is not every day you receive a phone call from Scholastic headquarters, but today I did. After a very pleasant conversation with them regarding my latest blog posts, I hung up the phone understanding that they are trying to please many people at the same time. I was also told that many teachers and parents had asked for the recent changes, which had led them go through with it. Their intentions were to help. Yet, I stand by what I have posted and told them that many agree with me; this is not what we had hoped for from this bastion of reading. While I doubt my posts will change their minds, I urge you to start your own conversation with them. They are there to discuss and listen and perhaps if enough of us do engage, something will change. Either way, I continue to respect Scholastic and what they strive to do: provide teachers with great books, even if I am disappointed in their choice.