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Should Students Choose the Books for Reading Workshop?

Reading Workshop-not a new idea in reading instruction, as veteran teachers know, but many new teachers are trying this technique to recharge their literature classes. Instead of every student in the class reading the same novel, reading workshop is a model that features student choice in book selection. It is really up to each individual teacher how much choice to give.

Why abandon the long-standing model of every student reading and fiction novel together? Teachers cite lack of student interest in such books as “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Students are skipping class, or using the abbreviated notes rather than read the books assigned. Teachers would rather have students reading with genuine interest, rather than reading for the great. So some teachers are experimenting with reading workshop. Many report positive results, and that students who were reluctant to read the classics are very excited about reading something they have chosen for themselves.

Critics claim that students in a reading workshop model will not get exposure to important books common to our culture. That may or may not be true; it really depends on the teacher in charge. The goal is for the students to initially choose a book of their own interests. The teacher is to then take that information and skillfully guide student to a more challenging reading level based on that first choice. Critics fear that not all literature teachers have the skills necessary to create a successful environment with a reading workshop program.

Proponents point out that any program that gets nonreaders excited about reading is a good one. The teacher who can remain flexible will have a high retention rate interbreeding workshop environment. Not all students will be ready to move beyond the level of their first choice at the same time. When a teacher can remain flexible and honor each student’s ability level, the program has a good chance of succeeding.

Reading workshop includes students discussing their own book choices with their teacher. It also includes keeping a journal about their reading. And the discussions are also encouraged among students.

Proponents point out that allowing children to choose their own books can build a foundation for a lifelong appreciation of reading. Critics tell us that a populace without a common literature base creates a society deficient in a common culture of understanding.

Critics are concerned that children are unlikely to choose classics such as Moby Dick or A Tale of Two Cities. And the critics, in most cases, are correct.

Not all schools are following the trend of adopting reading workshop. Some districts are going in the opposite direction, creating a core curriculum, designating specific books for every student at each grade level through the 12th grade.

It seems we need to strike a balance here. Well-trained teachers using the reading workshop model will indeed have some students who will read some of the classics. Many school districts use a combination of student choice and a fine books. The jury is still out on which method is best.


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