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How to Kindle Reading


Amazon has released its e-reader, the Kindle, the NEA has released its report, “To Read or Not to Read”, and the Internet is flooded with debate about what creates 21st century readers and the role that technology will play in redefining literacy. Former IRA president, Timothy Shanahan, makes a case for school reform when he claims that reading has become a “duty” for students rather than a joy. Daniel Henniger, of Opinion Journal, comments on the possible impact of Kindle, asking, “Does Reading Matter?", and countless bloggers and teachers have jumped into the fray to describe their own reading experiences and suggest methods to improve reading instruction and inspire children to read more.

While questioning whether Internet reading even counts as reading (talk to the NEA), I scrolled through countless articles this week, looking for answers. As usual, the voices that often tell me what motivates students to read are absent from the debate. Adults seem to ask all of the questions and look for all of the answers in a closed system that seems to have no place for the opinions of children about what makes them readers. We know what is best for children, and they can get on board because reading is good for them.

When I was a youngster, I always did what adults told me to do because “they knew what was best.” Right…

Innumerable postings proclaim that we should give our students “more choice” about what they should read. I agree that giving students the opportunity to choose their own reading material is a powerful motivator, but let’s talk about how that choice is really played out in reading classrooms.

You can read anything you want as long as it is:

at your Lexile level

there is an AR test for it

on the school reading list

not something you have read before

at least 200 pages long

a book, not a graphic novel or magazine,


of literary value (determined by the teacher, of course)

What do you mean you don’t like it? You chose that book; now you have to finish it.

Oh, and here’s a Ziploc bag for you to keep your “self-selected” book in because we all know you cannot take care of it.

Readers provided with this “controlled choice” frequently take the only real choice they have left. They choose not to read!

Students should be taught how to be the agents of their own literary lives, and they need validation for the reading choices they do make. Hidden under the excuses of “not enough time” and “I cannot find anything to read I like”, my students tell me that years of mindless worksheet drills and whole class novels make them hate reading.

We could probably cut down on the outrageous amount of TV watching Americans do these days if we required comprehension checks at the end of every program.

I do not need to read research on best practices in reading instruction (although I do) to understand the reading crisis. All I need to remember is my Psych 101 course. The teacher-driven way reading is often taught is classic operant conditioning, zapping students with a shock every time they pick up a book. After twelve or more years of such punishment, why would anyone ever pick up a book again?


Donalyn, you are so right. I remember attending a reading conference where the presenter asked how many books would we read if after everyone we had to go to our bedroom and make a diorama. I have been admonished by parents and fellow teachers because I let children read a book more than once. My most treasured books have been read many times by me and each time I discover something different. Books are multilayered one reading is not enough and this is known only to those who truly read. To everyone else it's I'm done, what's next.

I am a retired Kindergarten teacher and I couldn't agree with you more. I have opened a used bookstore in the town where I live for the exact purpose of encouraging reading in our rural community. I offer a living room atmosphere and coffee, hot chocolate, etc. I have encouraged the local papers to write an article reflecting exactly what you have stated based on the NEA study. Thank you for your thoughts.

It has been my experience with 5th graders that after 4 years of AR (computerized work sheets) they hate reading. I would hate to think that as an elementary reader, I would have been forced to take a test every time I read. I also see these tests as little more than surface reading with who, what, why, when, and where questions. I feel also that at our school accelerated reader is used for grades and becomes the reading program with the worth of a book being how many AR points it has. Thank you for pointing out that the when kids read for pleasure no matter what it is they develop critical thinking skills needed to better comprehend and develop a rich appreciation of literature

Thanks, Donalyn, for reminding me of how much fun I had reading with my students. I remember research lit from decades ago that described teachers as non-readers beyond professional requirements. Has this changed? Do a teacher's reading habits influence reading habits of their students? In other words, do teachers who read more than required stuff have students who read more than other students?

The other side of the coin is this:

I have had many classes of 10th graders tell me that they would never have finished (and thoroughly enjoyed) reading 'Brave New World' or Camus's 'The Outsider'if they had not been 'guided' through them in class.

I agree so much with you about choice. How can you force students to enjoy books? You can't. You have to make them want it. I read tons of YA and adult novels. One, because I enjoy them, and two, because it allows me to better find a connection between the kid and the book. Once they've made a connection with one book, they become so much more open minded about trying more.

What kind of strategies do you suggest for re- sparking or even sparking the desire to get students reading? Something I have tried doing is instead of a nightly reading log, (pages read, reflection, and etc.), is a weekly log in which they are required to only have 100 or more minutes of reading and parents signature. Knowing that I would have to reflect after every 10 minutes of reading would certain cause a melt down for me.

To Tammy, the retired kindergarten teacher:

I'd love to come to your bookstore! What a wonderful gift you are providing for your rural community. We should all do something as meaningful in our own communities.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Sheila: To Tammy, the retired kindergarten teacher: I'd love to come read more
  • Jenny: What kind of strategies do you suggest for re- sparking read more
  • Kimberly: I agree so much with you about choice. How can read more
  • Valerie Haug: The other side of the coin is this: I have read more
  • Bob Heiny: Thanks, Donalyn, for reminding me of how much fun I read more



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