Saturday, October 24, 2009

My issue with schools and reading

And the ranting continues: what is WITH schools and reading?

What I mean is.... when kids get to high school, why can't we let them read for fun?!?

Just about every school here in the Midwest (in Civilization as well as teachers I know in surrounding states have confirmed this with me) has a standardized reading program for high school kids. I'm not talking about English classes and the novels read in Language Arts. I mean schools set aside time for students to read.

But they can't just have an SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) period; no, the schools decide we must TEST the students. Goddamnit I am so sick and tired of students being tested to death over everything. SSS started out as a class period, separate from the rest of the class periods, as a 15-20 time of day where students were supposed to read something for fun. As long as they were reading and not sleeping, talking or doing homework, they could read anything that was school appropriate: novels, biographies, magazines, newspapers, comics- anything they were interested in was fair game.

Oh no. Apparently we don't want to make reading fun for the age set that typically hates books. Oh no, we can;t let kids have fun in school- the absurd notion! Oh no, we must test kids! Let's have a program called Accelerated Reading (AR) or Reading Counts- both programs involve every book in the school library being assigned a reading level and then a test is written for each book and the books are assigned a point value. The tests are computerized. These are national programs, not just here in my state, though some places have them under different names or have their own "Meet the State Standards" equivalent.

So now, the English teachers decide in addition to all the poetry and novels and books reports kids do, let's make kids get AR or Reading Counts points! Oh golly gee wow! So each semester kids need to earn X number of points as part of their grade, or as a percentage. And when do the kids read these books now? Why, during SSR of course. So no longer are kids reading for fun and pleasure and finding something that interests them. No longer are those kids who hate to read allowed to find something the grabs them. No longer are kids allowed to read what they want. Why? Because not every book ever written has a "test" so if you read something with no test, then you don't get any points. Now kids are hunting for books with high points to read.

I was looking as these lists the other day, just perusing and some of the choices were atrocious. I mean, some of the shit I've never heard of, some was on my college reading list and most of is would work better than an Ambien. Google AR or Reading counts with your state name and look at the high school list. Go on... I'll wait.

DAMN IT!!!!!!!!!!! Why can't they be allowed to read for fun? No wonder kids hate to read! It's because we test the hell out of them and don't make it fun. I was an English teacher for almost 10 years and I am a complete bibliophile whose read 10 books this month alone (and 95 this year) so I am most certainly NOT saying kids shouldn't read for a grade, but if we are going to allocate time during the school day and tell kids they have to read during this time, then let them read anything they want. Without a test. Just. read. for. fun.

I know kids who are LD (Learning Disabled) where reading is so hard for them but they love the magazine Sports Illustrated. Some of the students who hate to read, especially LD kids, have an interest in a specific topic like trains or war or dinosaurs or vampires. So now instead of taking 20 minutes to read an article in the magazine or a topic specific book, they have to go back to struggling through another novel of some kind- like a classic- to ear points to get another damn grade.

I am so so so sick of this stuff. I hate that kids hate to read. Kids need to be given an opportunity to explore all sorts of reading material from the novel to the memoir to newspapers to... anything that interests them.

Another disservice brought to you by the public education system.

the newly Jaded one,


Anna said...

Oh YES!! I am with you 100% on this and I know that I LOVED reading books in grade school and even in middle school but once I hit high school and they decided to dictate to me what I could and could not read even DURING our supposed free reading time (yeah we had that too) I pretty much put down reading for fun until AFTER I really sucks.

***on another note I have ANOTHER award for you at my blog, I know I know but hey this one is all about you my friend :-)

Hecate said...

Hmm, this is the first I have heard of anything like this. I know in elementary school they wanted kids at a certain level. But all my kids are in middle school now and I have never heard they talk about having to take tests of reading other than what's in the english class.

Jimmie Earl said...

AMEN! It's a daily struggle at my school. I work with those LD kids you talk about. They hate to read because they can't. They just might be more interested in learning if they could read, and they might learn to read better if they could read what they wanted to, or were interested in. In 7th grade, AR points make up 10% of the student's quarter grade. I saw a lot of "low grades" in English on grade cards because the student make their "quota" of AR points. This is BS. Thanks for letting me rant via your blog!

Shan said...

PREACH ON SISTER!! I agree completely. Those standardized tests have teachers in such a box on what they have time to do at school too. Shame shame.

One thing my six year old loves is for me to read to him so we have just read for almost two hours. I LOVE it. He is also doing well at reading his level books though he has trouble trying things that are hard for him and gets extremely frustrated.

My 11 year old loves fantasy and I encourage him to read whatever grabs his interest.

Maybe you should go into school administration and shake things up! :)

Anonymous said...

Maybe you found your new career.....a lobbyist?


Maggie said...

Anna- I know kids NEED to read for "English" classes but I think it schools are going to work into the curriculum reading for fun, then it should be READING FOR FUN!!!!!

I've always read for fun and it helped that I worked at the public library as my after school job from grades 9-12 so on occasion I could read what I wanted AND do school stuff.

And thank you so much for the award. KISSES! I'll be picking it up and fulfilling the requirements! :)

Hecate- you should ask your kids if they have to do AR or Reading Counts- and I bets it's part of their English class grade and if they have SSR, I bet they read AR or Reading counts during that time rather than stuff for fun... or maybe not. I hope for their sake NOT!

JE- you may rant anytime! And that "clunk clunk" is the sound of me beating my head against the table for your frustration!

Shan- I think a school board would fire me in about 10 minutes if I were in admin... LOL- but thanks for the compliment!

And I think it's great that you read to your sons(s)! It's one of the most important things we can do with our children!

And i say encourage your son to challenge himself, but when he gets frustrate to the point of giving up, a break is good so he'll hate it! (gee, listen to me sound like a teacher! Sorry!)

My theory is to let the kids read whatever they want as long as it's interesting!

P- I always wanted to be a lobbyist; that was the plan with AlaskaSam when he and I were in college. We were gonna graduate and move to DC and attend Georgetown- I was gonna be a lobbyist and he was going to be a politician. Should've taken that route instead of this one- for LOTS of reasons! :)

Hecate said...

I know they have what's called "Bell Time" where they can read, but they get to pick what they read.

I know in English class they have required stuff, but when they have that 20 mins of "free" time, they are allowed to read what they want. Of course they are still in middle school so who knows, this could change when they get into highschool. Or maybe my district has found a way to get in what they have to and still let students read what they want during the "free" time.

Wow that was a lot longer than I expected. LOL I hope it made sense!

Maggie said...

Hecate- I'm glad that the kids don't feel that they have so much "reading" that they have to do it during bell time. I'm glad your schools figured it out- so far! Lucky your kids!