Something I have been thinking about lately:
My husband and I take turns reading to our daughter every night before bed. For the last for months, I have been reading her Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which we just finished today. She admitted that she now believes that the Harry Potter Series is even better than The Warriors Series. Two of her good friends are also avid fans of Potter, and they compare notes on the books and the movies and sometimes act out scenes. When I volunteer in her fourth grade classrooms, I see kids clutching their books lovingly to their chests, I hear kids talking about books and recommending them to their friends.
I teach high school seniors. When I asked them about the last book they read, most couldn’t name any. Many claimed proudly that they hadn’t read a single book throughout high school, including the ones assigned in English Class. When I asked why they didn’t read, one student said, “Because movies exist.” I do have some idea of what may have happened to a love of reading and fiction they may have had in primary school.
The first problem is choice. In my high school most teachers assign whole class novels most of the time, from the cannon. I like to choose what I read, and it’s not always Literature. The second problem is about what we assign with it: annotations and essays. I only annotate if I am teaching a text, and usually not until my second reading of it. I keep hearing that we need to drop fiction and move to non-fiction because of the common core and relevance. I think we need both, but we need our goal to be creating effective life-long readers, not English majors. I don’t really have any ideas on how to change the culture around how we teach English, though I know that it is changing for the better throughout the country.