A few weeks ago I attended a training session for an online reading product. I arrived open-minded and ready to learn about a new tool to help my students develop their love of reading.
Then words and phrases from the presentation started to buzz around me like pesky bees.
“stars earned for books read”… swat!
“limit their levels”… swat!
“comprehension quiz”… swat!
“generic lessons”… swat!
Then it started to become worse than buzzing. I was shown how to control what students read, how to restrict how they read and how to send them messages to which they could not reply. Cringe.
Where is the student ownership, voice, agency?
So I began to do a little research on their website:
Ranking. Control. Practice, practice and more practice.
Nothing about love, joy or passion.
The whole time I was listening to the presentation and browsing the website I could not get this poem written by John Locke our of my head:
I don’t want to do anything that gives my students an aversion to reading or learning. I do not want to make reading a business for them. I want to help them grow their passion as readers.
5 years ago I probably would have jumped on board and signed my students up. I’ve become more discerning since then. I become more informed since then. I’ve become more critical since then. I’ve become more emboldened since then.
Amazing provocateurs like Pernille Ripp, Mark Barnes and Alfie Kohn have challenged my thinking about reading practices like reading logs, levelling, and incentives. They have prompted me to reflect on how the choices I make as a teacher can kill my students’ love of reading. They have forced me to think of myself as a reader when thinking about what I should be asking of students. They have provided me with guidance about how to create a passionate reading environment. They have inspired me to become a reading warrior where I critically think about and advocate against literacy practices and products that negatively impact children. They have inspired me to break the rules.
Yet time remained in this presentation, so I tried to see the potential uses. Here was a website offering thousands of online books. Books… hmmm. I began to wonder about these “books”. So I dug a little deeper.
“professional illustrators who have years of experience illustrating educational material“
“excerpts and adaptations from literature”
Was this a place where students could access real books or materials for reading instruction?Because those aren’t the same things.
I think my students deserve exposure to good quality literature. I think my students deserve to be free from levelling and ranking. I think my students deserve voice and choice in what they read and how they read. I think my students deserve to develop their love for reading away from prizes, rewards and incentives.
Is there not an app or website where students have access to literature with no levels, no incentives, no restrictions or limitations?
Is so, please tell me about that.