As a middle school reading teacher, I often see firsthand the untimely death of reading for pleasure. Those little darlings who squealed with delight over reading their first words in elementary schools come to me and act as if they're being tortured when I say we're going to read. Oh, they're okay when I read to them, but the suggestion of silent reading sounds like punishment to my very active preteens and teenagers.
Every year I ask the students in my school to answer this question: what do you do when you read? And every year I get the same answer - "I look at words." I tell them that if I place a book in front of my cat's face, she will "look at words." Is she reading? The discussion continues - middle school kids like activity. I tell them if I could make reading more like playing a video game or football, they'd love it. And they agree. So I spend the entire school year teaching them ways to make reading interactive, something that requires more than "looking at words." We interact with the text in many ways - we think aloud, we annotate, we visualize - the list is long. But still it's true. Most of my students aren't excited about reading like they were in elementary school. And some openly hate it.
As I read Kelly Gallagher's new book, Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What We Can Do About It, I thought about all the things I've tried to do to keep reading alive. I've written short novels myself, unpublished but still my attempt to provide material that I know interests my students. I have dressed up in my wedding gown (veil and all), fairy costumes (I was the Reading Fairy), and even as Britney Spears (that one was a stretch, but we were teaching reading with a music theme that day!) I've brought in, or cooked, almost every food my classes have read about - a character in Pinballs loves Kentucky Fried Chicken; Gerald loved his Aunt Queen's pancakes in Forged by Fire. I've tap danced and once I did a handspring (that was in my younger days.)
So when I read Gallagher's title, I can say that I felt a little defensive. I'm not killing reading, I thought. But a sneak peek at the book proves that I need to understand that perhaps all teachers aren't willing to pull their wedding gowns out of the closet while gradually having more difficulty getting them zipped due to the vast amount of food being consumed in the classroom. There are actually schools who are contributing to "readicide," a malady defined by Gallagher as a "the systematic killing of the love of reading often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools."
Want to know more? I'm excited to announce that Kelly Gallagher is going to be making a Blog Tour Stop right here at The Dream Teacher. Click HERE to download the book, scheduled to be released on February 10th by Stenhouse Publishers. And it's definitely worth the peek! Gallagher begins with an in depth discussion of how testing has impacted our teaching - he calls it "The Elephant in the Room." Then he ends the book with a nice appendix that includes "101 Books My Reluctant Readers Love to Read." Every teacher needs to see that list.
Most importantly, Mr. Gallagher, a full time teacher at Magnolia High School in Anaheim, California, will be stopping by to answer any questions that DreamTeacher readers may have. So click on the link, read the book, and submit your questions in the comment section.
And thanks to Kelly Gallagher who is on a mission to stop readicide in our country. It's a huge undertaking (no pun intended) to end the killing of reading, but this book is a great way to start. Submit your questions, and let's get this discussion started!