Today I said something I didn’t think I would say ever again. Something that I have told others to never say, in fact, I may have even pleaded with a few people. What came out of my mouth after lengthy consideration? “No more reading on devices this quarter.” Then I held my breath just a little bit and I waited for the reaction. Not just from my students, but from the reading police, for my better sense to come yelling. For someone to bust through my door and tell me that reading is all about choice and that reading on a device counts just as much as reading a paper book. That to get students to read we should allow them to read any thing they want, as long as they are reading. That fan fiction counts as fiction as well.
They would have been right, too. It is all about choice. It is all about getting them to read. About letting them pick whatever they want as long as they read, as long as they get their eyes on print. Yet for some of my students even that hasn’t worked, and so today, I took a drastic measure by outlawing devices. You see, because even with all of that choice some are still not reading. They may be skimming pages, they may be browsing various fan fiction sites like WattPad searching for a story, they may even be diving into a text now and then. But most of the time, every single day, the device in their hand has become one more tool to distract them from falling into a great story, or finding their reading zone to quote Nancie Atwell.
So today, I asked, or maybe even forced them a bit to find an amazing book to read. To feel the weight of the book in their hands, to browse through all of the books we have and find one that calls their name. To abandon a book if it doesn’t. To save their time to read the very best of books. To get sucked in, knowing that I will be ask them how their book is, what they love, if I should read it as well. And when they finish I will ask them to pass it on. To tell someone else to read it as well, to hopefully love it as much a they did.
As they book shopped, I saw something happen that I have waited for all year; my most reluctant readers actually ask about books. Yes it was because they had to but they were actually doing it. They browsed somewhat, they shuffled through pages, and they all left with a book that they were willing to try. Yes, some are still unhappy that I am asking them to read a paper book. Yes, some think I have lost my mind, but perhaps today is the beginning of a change in mind, of a seed being planted. Or not, but I am going to try it for a while because something had to change. That I have eight weeks left to try to get them to read at least one great book and so I had to change my tune a little bit. We shall see if it pays off. We shall see if it helps or harms. What do you think?
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day. The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.