Teaching Our Students To Read Fearlessly
By Ann Morgester
When I entered the first grade, I was reading at the fourth grade level. If I had been restricted to the everybody or early reader books I would have been turned off the library at a time it was critical for me to explore. (Thank you Ms. Nina Prockish for opening up my world, not closing it down.)
When it comes right down to it, the purpose of a school library is to keep the students reading – because we know the more they read, the better they read; and the better they read the better they write. Getting books into their hands that they want to read is the job. We do our part by choosing books that represent a variety of reading levels, on topics that are of interest to our students and books which are linked to curriculum. Books that are developmentally appropriate and which reflect the diversity of our patrons.
Within that collection, what we shouldn’t be doing is deciding what they can or should read. We shouldn’t be restricting them to a certain section because it makes things easier on us. We shouldn’t be restricting them by reading levels and we shouldn’t be restricting them by content. If, as a part of curriculum, a teacher wants to make sure that students are reading “at their level” then we can help by having students choose a “just right book” AND a free choice book (which may require changing some checkout policies). Read: A level is a teachers tool, NOT a child’s label by Fountes and Pinnell
Parents, of course, have the responsibility and right to determine what is appropriate for their child and family. When they have expressed a concern, we, as school librarians, should do our best to help the student find books that will fit with their family’s needs. However, we only do that when a parent/guardian has discussed the issue with us. We don’t make that decision independently for the child.
Ultimately, we are there to open up our students’ worlds, to expand their vision and help them learn how to pursue information fearlessly – not restrict them to our perceptions of what they are able to read or might be interested in reading.