I figured out how to turn my high school students into avid readers when I taught at an inner-city parochial school that required the students to buy all of their books. My students were poor. It seemed crazy to have each one buy a copy of Catcher in the Rye, and then each one buy a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, and so on.
So I thought: if five kids buy Mockingbird, and then another five buy Catcher and then they trade the books around . . . But what happened was even more amazing than just saving money.
All of a sudden my students were reading all kinds of authors, from Dick Francis to Agatha Christie to, yes, Harper Lee. And they were reading much more than I could ever have assigned if we were all reading the same class book.
That was the beginning. Over the next thirty years I perfected my system, having my students read with me excerpts of required books, but spending most of their time reading books of their own choosing. I read along with them, to keep up. We were all reading like crazy. When Massachusetts introduced high stakes testing, not one of my students failed the English section—and I was teaching the lowest sophomore levels.
Certainly schools need to be better funded. But one exciting way to save money is to open up the reading curriculum, and stop buying class-size sets of required books.