Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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How to destroy love of reading

This link via @HoppingReads on Twitter: 6 WAYS TEACHERS KILL THE JOY OF READING

I don’t actually agree with quite all of these, unusually for me, because I do think it’s pretty easy to think of ways teachers accidentally kill the joy of reading in the classroom. But here are the six ways, briefly — click through to see the more extensive comments in the post —

1. Assigning particular novels

2. Telling students not to read ahead

3. Rolling your eyes at particular choices of free-reading material (eg, graphic novels)

4. Not reading in class every day

5. Assigning book reports

6. Not celebrating the joy of reading

I totally agree with #2 and #3 and #6. Those seem like absolute no-brainers.

Not assigning particular novels? Uh, if you want to have a class discussion about a novel, and you want the whole class to be able to participate, and oh by the way if you think it might be nice if students were exposed to some of the great books that form part of the overarching cultural backdrop, then yes, you are going to have to assign particular novels.

The author of the post, Mark Barnes, says that for example some students may be turned off by the genre of the chosen novel. So? Maybe students should be exposed to genres they think they hate. If the teacher picks great books, most of the class will hopefully like them. And if not, well, you don’t have to love *every* book that is assigned. I say this even though I hated nearly every book that was assigned to me. I don’t think that’s necessary if teachers would only step back from only assigning horrible tragic grim books all the time. Of course I’ve posted about that before.

Okay, and: Not assigning book reports. Believe me, I see illiterate students all the time. Students who have never written a book report and, in fact, cannot write. IMO, it is not possible to assign too many written assignments in the lower grades, with a concentration on writing sentences that say what you think they say, on producing a coherent argument backed up by evidence, and yes, on grammar.

Mind you, I can’t see the point of the trivial pursuit type of worksheet to which Barnes refers. Stupidest question I ever heard of a teacher putting on a test: “What were the spokes of Apollo’s chariot made out of?” This became the classic stupid question in my family.

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10 Comments How to destroy love of reading

  1. Mike S.

    So what were the spokes of Apollo’s chariot made out of?

    (I can tell you, for similar reasons, that the chariot driver of Achilles was Automedon. :-) )

  2. Brandy

    YES to 2-5.

    1 and 6 are driving me a little crazy. There is a definite push by many educators to go to a model where kids get to read and write whatever they want. It drives me nuts because that’s not reality. Sometimes in life you have to suck it up and do things you don’t enjoy. I always assign (when I was a classroom teacher and now as a homeschool mom) a mix of required and chosen novels. And yes, my daughter has been writing literary critiques since she was 7. My son will learn this year. If you take the time to teach them how, it really helps them think through their experience of a book. Just saying, “Write a report on a book.” with no direction won’t yield the same results though. But a good teacher would never do that anyway. And I don’t make them write one for every book they read. There’s always one assigned book a marking period I require a critique for and then they have to write two on books of their choosing.

    I don’t use comprehension exercises, because I agree that kills one’s joy real quick.

  3. Rachel

    I’m hoping Craig will remember about the spokes of Apollo’s chariot! I think it was his teacher who put that on a quiz, and he’s the sort of person who remembers trivia forever.

    Apollo didn’t drive his own chariot? You see what happens when your teachers don’t quiz you about pointless trivia? You wind up not knowing things like that!

    Brandy, a mix of “choose from these” and “read this one” seems good to me. And yes, it’s amazing to me that teachers would assign writing without establishing a topic, preferably an interesting, though-provoking topic. I think I would try to do things like, “When you reach chapter ten, stop and write a 1-2 page prediction of what’s going to happen at the end.” I just think telling students to summarize the plot is boring.

  4. Craig

    It looks like the Iliad describes Hera’s chariot; I’m guessing that was the origin of the question and Apollo is a misremembering.

    Then Juno, Goddess dread, from Saturn sprung,
    Her coursers gold-caparison’d prepared
    Impatient. Hebe to the chariot roll’d
    The brazen wheels, and joined them to the smooth
    Steel axle; twice four spokes divided each
    Shot from the centre to the verge. The verge
    Was gold by fellies of eternal brass
    Guarded, a dazzling show! The shining naves
    Were silver; silver cords and cords of gold
    The seat upbore; two crescents blazed in front.
    The pole was argent all, to which she bound
    The golden yoke, and in their place disposed
    The breast-bands incorruptible of gold;
    But Juno to the yoke, herself, the steeds
    Led forth, on fire to reach the dreadful field.

  5. Mike S.

    Automedon drove Achilles’ chariot, presumably the better to leave the swift-footed son of Peleus’s hands free for more effective whacking. I infer from the Phaeton story that Apollo did his own driving.

    (Though Wikipedia at least claims the Greeks associated the chariot and Phaeton with Helios, and it wasn’t till the Romans that both got attached to Apollo.)

  6. Elaine T

    I certainly agree that nitpicking details, such as what the spokes of a chariot are made of are not the way to encourage a love of reading. And a lesson or two on HOW to write a book report – which I don’t remember ever getting – would have been nice.

    OTOH, after it was mentioned in the Cherryh thread a week or two back I pulled out the CHERRYH ODYSSEY, and re-read the article on the Rusalka trilogy, and remembered why I didn’t think much of it: Not just the lit-crit speak (although that didn’t help) but the details were wrong. The wrong characters were credited with certain actions, chronology was wrong and, other things so .. well… if you can’t keep who did what straight, how can I trust your opinion of what was going on in the story? SOME details matter, and it can depend on the story – there may even be one where what the chariot spokes are made out of are important. But if they aren’t important don’t quiz the kids on them.

  7. Rachel

    Elaine, really? Wow. I would be pretty embarrassed if I’d written an essay about a book and got important details like WHO DID WHAT wrong.

  8. Elaine T

    or who died when, and what the leshys were doing when, or when Eveshka learned about wizard hearts…. Yep – I just double checked.

    I’ve seen mistakes in other essays (usually about Tolkien) but those tend to be about less obvious stuff, which is still irritating, but more forgiveable. Not everyone knows off the top of their heads that Sauron sent the Barrow Wights, frex, even if it is mentioned in the Appendices. But to miss what’s actually in the book text, and life and death at that? I don’t remember the other essays in that book being so off, they are all by different people, so don’t dump the whole book. But skip that one – which you probably would anyway as you’re not fond of the trilogy. If the Teen hadn’t fixated on it as an anti-depressent I probably wouldn’t be as fond of it. But she’d talk about it, to distract from how awful she felt, and expect intelligent conversation back, so I got a much better understanding of it. Also, the rewritten versions CJC is selling as e-books are much less confusing.

  9. Rachel

    Elaine, it’s interesting that CJC revised the ebook versions. I didn’t know that. I still won’t rush right out for them, but if they’re less confusing, probably that’s good.

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