All Info About Teen Reading

A companion blog to All Info About Teen Reading

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Five Ways Teachers Can Encourage Teen Reading

Are you tired of your students' seeming apathy towards reading? Here are five ways you, as a teacher, can encourage teens to reads:
  • Make time for reading in your classroom
    One of the most popular ways to do this is through sustained silent reading (ssr) time. Some districts make a whole-school effort out of this, devoting one homeroom period a week to the practice or a similar schedule. The idea is that for a set period of time, anywhere from 10-30 minutes, students will do nothing but read for pleasure. Even if you restrict reading time to class assignments, providing time in class for reading will allow students to ask questions if they're having trouble understanding and get them off to a good start on their homework.
  • Make space for reading in your classroom
    While most teens' needs for books to read can be fulfilled by the library, having a bookshelf in your classroom sends a powerful message to students about the importance you place on books and reading. Visit a few used bookstores or thrift shops to build a small collection if you haven't already gathered books for students to use. I once had a teacher who bought used books from his students for a quarter each at the beginning of each school year to build up his class library. If your classroom space allows it, consider creating a reading space for free reading time or for students to use before class. Some of the most inviting classrooms I've ever visited included a reading corner with beanbags or rocking chairs, a bit of carpeting in tiled rooms, and soft lighting.
  • Model an interest in reading
    Find ways to show that you value reading. Keep the book you're currently reading on your desk. When you give students time to read in class, model appropriate behavior by reading a book of your own. Talk about reading as a pleasurable activity, either as part of a larger class discussion or in your conversations with teens. Talk to your students about your favorite books the way you would share a new book with a friend.
  • Give students some choice in their reading
    Are there any places in your curriculum where you can give students choice in their reading? Perhaps there are two short stories in the textbook that illustrate point of view and you can let students choose whether to read a romance or a science fiction story. Or maybe you can create a more general assignment that asks students to read a biography from the period you're studying in history. Students will be more engaged with their reading if they can select the books they read.
  • Ask questions about reading
    "But I do this all the time! Isn't that what teachers do?" is what you're probably thinking in response to this suggestion. There are two sides to this point. When I say, "Ask questions about reading," I'm first thinking that in order to encourage free reading among teenagers, you should always be on the lookout for an opportunity to ask your students about the books they're reading for fun. Show them that you're interested in all books, not just the ones you assign. The second facet of asking questions about reading is to ask students what they think about the readings you do assign. Whether in a formal survey or through more casual conversations before or after class, try to get a feel for what most captures their interest in assigned readings and what gives them difficulties. Try to capitalize on the interest and create assignments to work through the difficulties in future lesson plans.
After you've encouraged your students to read, don't ruin it with boring assignments. Check out Creative Book Report Ideas for three great ideas to keep students engaged with their reading.

Do you have your own tip for encouraging your students to read? Share it in the comments!


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thoughts on Twilight

I wrote the following on a personal journal to share my thoughts with friends, but I thought I should also post it here, as it is also relevant to the topic of this blog:
Note - I wrote this with the understanding that the person reading it would have a basic idea of the story, so there may be some minor spoilers.

I was just thinking that I never gave my final report on Twilight. And my final assessment is that it wasn't that bad. The bits of commentary I had read online were so extreme, either fangirling all over it or hating it for its writing and the gender relations behind it. I find myself falling squarely in the middle. I don't want to have Edward's sparkly vampire babies, but I was also entertained by much of the book.

I can remember reading complaints about Bella being so popular, and I had expected her to be a cheerleader sort. Instead, she was popular because she was the new girl in a small town that doesn't get many new residents. It didn't seem that far-fetched to me. If you're a teenage boy, and you've been looking at the same girls for 17 years, the new one might be kind of appealing.

When Bella's attention was instantly drawn to Edward and his family on her first day of school, it didn't come across to me as some cliched "love at first sight" thing, but as someone honestly in awe at a family full of supernatural beauties. I think I might stare, too.

When she was mesmerized by Edward's eyes, that seemed to fit in with basic vampire mythology. At least, I think that's fairly commonly used in vampire stories, isn't it, that vampires can seduce their victims through their eyes or voice? I also thought that a vampire finding a particular human's blood attractive doesn't seem outside the realm of possiblity, as a sort of mythical version of pheromones.

Bella's clumsiness was a bit far-fetched, even as someone who also hated high school gym class (In my defense, though, I never actually injured anyone,as she seemed to), and perhaps gave Edward a few too many chances to be protective of her.

However, thinking about her clumsiness made me think that Edward and Bella's beginning interactions were similar to those of shoujo manga characters. The girl will often be clumsy and/or stumble into trouble, giving the guy a chance to come along and save her. Love/hate relationships are often common (I mean, you wouldn't have much of a weekly series if the two characters got together right away). So maybe I'm not a good judge of this because I've come to accept this structure in some stories.

The book was due the day I finished it, so I don't have it around for direct quoting, but I do recall a couple of times when I thought the word choice was a bit off, in a "would a high school girl, even a purportedly well-read one, really talk like that?" way. One that comes to mind is Bella saying that she was looking forward to some estrogen therapy when she was planning a shopping outing with friends.

On a more random note, I thought it was kind of funny when Edward had to skip biology class during the blood typing lab.

As you may have noticed with my earlier post, it took a while for the sparkling to come into play. When it did, it wasn't quite as excessive as I expected. It actually kind of made sense as an excuse for why vampires aren't seen in sunlight. It did lead into one of the more boring sections of the book, though, where Bella just plain talked too much about his good looks and her overall attraction to Edward. I was starting to get sick of them.

But then it started to improve after that when Edward introduced Bella to his family. I thought this part was interesting just for giving some more background about the different vampires and how they were created and survived over time. When the outsider vampire decided he wanted to hunt Bella, I thought that things picked up even more, and it became a real page-turner as I waited to see what would happen and if they would be able to outsmart him.

It's probably because I know what's coming with the horrific vampire baby birthing and whatnot, but I like the ending of the book better if I can think of it as open-ended. Bella wants to become a vampire so she can be with Edward always. He's reluctant. Fade to black, with the reader allowed to guess whether Ella ever manages to convince Edward.

The tl;dr summary - If you're on the fence about reading Twilight like I was, I think it's worth a try if you can find a copy to borrow.