Nancie Atwell recently published this article in Education Week about THE CASE FOR LITERATURE. It’s well worth a read.
Perhaps one of the most telling parts of the article comes from this passage where Nancie writes…
In 2007, fully 70 percent of U.S. 8th graders read below the proficient level on the NAEP exam. Our 13-year-olds aren’t reading well because they’re not reading enough: The National Endowment for the Arts has reported that only 30 percent of students in this age group read every day.
Now, I am not sure about a heck of a lot of things in this world, but I am pretty sure that if English teachers are not going to require that their students read books, then very few others are going to step up and fill in the gap.
And as I see more and more of, English teachers all over are foregoing book reading as an essential, core component of their classroom. Some claim that teaching “skills” is where they focus. Some claim that reading annotated passages and excerpts is good enough. Some claim that their “district won’t let them” teach real books.
We all look out on the horizon of public education and see troubles. We all see silliness and problems. We all see Herculean challenges. But if we, in this nation of ELA teachers that we are, do not also see the need for us to be making sure that we are having our young students read books then we, as ELA teachers, are complicit in the demise of student achievement.
We can blame others for the dysfunction, the budgets cuts, the campus shortcomings and the national calamity of over-testing. But we have no one to blame but ourselves if we allow the reading of real books to die.
We are their torchbearers and if we do not seize the reigns and more loudly stand up for the fact that real books need to be a core part of the academic lives of all American students then we are as complicit in the demise of U.S. public education as are so many of the others at whom we so often point our fingers.
All heed Nancie Atwell – and ignore her work at our collective peril.