Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Common Core Reading Requirements

A blog at Edweek.org has an interesting article titled "Debating the Common-Core Nonfiction Requirements here.   It summarizes the debate over whether or not to really jettison the current high school reading requirements which are heavy on classical literature, and substitute a good deal of nonfiction.  My response:

During my last twenty years of teaching high school English I completely changed my curriculum.  The classic fiction I was supposed to be teaching I taught by having my students read short excerpts together in class. Their homework was always to be reading books of their own choice.  Every day they brought their independent reading book to class and we all read quietly for the first ten or fifteen minutes.

My students—from my low level readers to my advanced students—all read like crazy.  Many averaged a book a week.  They read classics and popular fiction and non-fiction.

Stephen Krashen, in his book The Power of Reading, maintains that research shows that teaching skills is just testing skills.  Kids acquire reading skills through what he calls “free voluntary reading.”

I’ve found that only avid readers—no matter what they are avidly reading—acquire the kind of sophisticated reading skills that the Common Core is looking for.  The thousands of hours that avid readers spend reading series books and genre fiction enable them to read complex fiction and nonfiction. 

If schools really want to do well with Common Core Standards, they need to open up their curricula, and make the development of avid readers their top priority.  Then the skills will take care of themselves.  

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