Should we abandon reading for pleasure?

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Let’s be clear about this from the start.

I have nothing against reading –

I am a massive supporter of reading. It can have a very positive impact on many aspects of people’s lives, especially young people. Nor have I anything against pleasure! My concern is that yoking the two together doesn’t do reading any favours.

Reasons why we should stop talking about reading for pleasure.

1. It sounds like special pleading. “Yes, honestly folks, you will enjoy this!”
We wouldn’t use this approach with sports or arts, both of which many people find pleasurable, so why do we with reading?
2. It encourages a range of negative responses. “Who says it is pleasurable? I don’t enjoy it and I’m not going to do it. You can’t force me to enjoy it!”

Alternative approaches
1. Find as many different ways of encouraging all members of the school community to read in as wide a range of circumstances as possible.
2. Provide comfortable reading spaces all over school.
3. Encourage the circumstances that lead to flow and students getting really engrossed in a book. Read my post on reading and flow here.
4. Demand that learners read in just the same way that we demand that they do maths.
5. Take it seriously with parents.
6. Publicise the advantages of reading widely using the “Rooted in Reading” 15 principles.
7. Insist that learners record details of their reading.
8. Get copies of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller and ensure that staff read and discuss them.
9. Make it clear that reading is for all, not just geeks.

Many schools’ approaches to reading have been far too insipid. Not enough demands have been made of learners in this area. This is selling reading short. It is also selling learners short. If they are going to achieve their potential they’ve got to read widely. No ifs, no buts. Get on with it! We’ll be checking, but also rewarding and encouraging.

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6 thoughts on “Should we abandon reading for pleasure?

  1. My only disagreement would be that asking me to write about what I read would put me off reading and spoil the enjoyment of callously diving into a good book

    1. While I do agree with you overall, I also sometimes have my students annotate as they read to help them with the paper they will have to write. When I am reading a book just for myself I do not write about what I’ve read except for my book reviews. I instead like to become a part of what I am reading and not be interrupted by having to take notes. When I am reading a book that I will be teaching however, I do stop and take notes to ensure that I go over certain passages with my students.

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