My job this week was to make sure that people are participating on the blog so I am going to start conversation based on the readings I found interesting and hope that everyone will pitch in their thoughts. I could deeply appreciate what I read of Nancie Atwell’s The Reading Zone, because throughout my adolescent years, reading was my favorite hobby, aside from sports. I loved it when teachers let us read alone in class, which wasn’t very often, but enough to keep me interested, so that when I got home, I would finish all the reading assignments for the week, and then move on to whatever I was reading on the side. I was always looking for my next great book, and I think the system that Atwell has devised within her classroom is, well, awesome.
All of our class discussions have really made me think about my position on if every kid in class needs to be reading the same book, and according to Atwell, this is not only silly, but also unfair to the kids who are more or less advanced readers. I think that she provides a lot of support for why kids should be allowed to read whatever they want, as long as they are reading, which they probably will be if they have a say in the decision making process. Her method gives the kids an individualized reading experience. However, they eventually have the opportunity to share with their peers through book reviews, which I still frequently consult before choosing a book. Further, her method gives the students ownership, in that they can decide what they like to read and it allows them to read comfortably and at their independent level (Holiday, Challenge, or Just Right). Her method especially emphasizes that reading isn’t always an “efferent” process where we read “to acquire information”, but that reading is also “aesthetic”, when we read for pleasure. I think this last point is especially important, because very few people I know read for pleasure. My Dad, my boyfriend, my best friends, all don’t read as a hobby, something that flabbergasts me but also saddens me. Reading books/literature was always a tedious process for them, not something that they ever experienced as fun, relaxing and pleasurable. If my Dad has been given a choice regarding what to read, he would have read sports lit, and my boyfriend would have undoubtedly liked Gary Paulsen, and anything related to outdoors. My best friends could easily relate to contemporary works by Jenifer Weiner or Jodi Picoult. There is something for everyone, and I love that Atwell’s classroom appreciates this fact. I also think that Atwell’s techniques all emphasize how reading can be a fun activity and as she stated, help children become readers for life.
I was also shocked and impressed with some of the books that her students were reading! I didn’t read Vonnegut until college. I didn’t read The Things They Carried until high school, and even then we didn’t read the entire book. I have never read Girl, Interrupted, but I would love to. And I just finished The Glass Castle, and Pride and Prejudice within the last year, at age 21. Clearly, people were underestimating my reading abilities, if these are the books and topics that 7th and 8th graders are reading.
Any thoughts on Atwell?!