By Sarah White, SED 2016
Ask a group of middle or high school students what they like to read. Many will name a book title or an author; several will say they like to read articles about their interests. Some will tell you that they don’t know, that they don’t like to read much at all.
I bet none of them will include sending or receiving text messages, scrolling through their social media accounts, browsing various websites, or studying textbooks for school. They will fail to mention what they read every day.
Today, adolescents face a variety of literary formats, both formal and informal, yet many still think of reading in the traditional sense, involving books, poems, and stories. Considering that English classes are predicated on such formats, I’m not surprised that students in particular don’t view checking Twitter as reading.
Sometimes, even I have to remind myself that reading extends far beyond books and English classrooms. Growing up, my dad told me that if I can read, I can do anything, and I believe that is resoundingly true today. I take for granted that all of what I do is because I can read and comprehend. Students, too, take for granted that they are always reading. The scope of their literary world is limited because they only consider literature as a form of reading. In some respects, this connotation may deter many students from reading as they think it will be boring, difficult, or too much like school. As educators, we should show students that reading can extend out of the classroom and into their private worlds.
Research presented in one of my classes this semester claims that only reading novels on a regular basis outside of school has a positive correlation with student grades. The numerical grade a student receives, though, is not the only indication of his or her literacy. Instead, I believe that there needs to be a starting point for students’ reading abilities and comprehension. Today, Larry might be reading Facebook posts. Next week, he’s suggesting articles about his favorite animal to his classmates. Eventually, he’s finished a book, one that he truly enjoyed. And isn’t that the ultimate goal? My greatest hope is that students’ literacy continues to improve, which can only happen with cultivated interest, knowledge, and motivation.
How will I help my students understand that they don’t need to be analyzing lines of poetry or decoding Shakespeare to be reading? How can I instill a sense of excitement in reading? How can I provide greater encouragement and motivation to my students? How can I integrate the multiplicity of literary formats into my classroom? As a future teacher, I know that a single “one size fits all” answer to these questions does not exist. Rather, through reading research and learning from both professors and experiences, I will build a repertoire of techniques and strategies. Then maybe, just maybe, I’ll have the answers.
*Sarah White is a sophomore at Boston University School of Education studying English education and Teaching English as a Second or Other Language.