Chapters one and two from Penny Kittle’s “Book Love” were astounding. Textbooks are tough to read, but this assigned reading was not like a textbook in the slightest (read like a personal essay, first person). Practical examples for English teachers abounded, flourished, and any other superlative of your choosing. It held hope that teachers can inspire young adults to read, AND it gave examples of how to do it. Too many education textbooks only have the hope part, but leave out the omnipotent teaching examples. Seriously, if the rest of this book is as practical as the first two chapters, then I’m telling my textbook renter they aren’t getting this one back. Also, there were great quotes from the author to start each new paragraph, like a true literary bug.
So, what did I learn? Most importantly I learned to balance pleasure and challenging reads in my future classroom. But the author stressed very adamantly that pleasure reading has to come first, and I agree. Have students read fun stuff that applies to them, and build their reading muscles in order to take on the more challenging readings. Students need to want to read harder works, not be forced into them. They should seek out these books for a deeper source of reflection, and to gather a better deeper understanding of the English Language.
The second thing I learned is to assign readings based on the student’s specific reading level. Penny Kittle was very precise in her argument on this matter. She explains there is no purpose in having students get bogged down by difficult texts, and constantly feel the pressure to catch up. The class has to build a love (while acquiring the skills) through reading a heavy amount. The most practical way for students to do this is to have them read books they understand and can relate to. Penny Kittle calls reading a game of “will and skill.” She essentially discovered this by having interviews with her students where she cleared the air by formally asking “why don’t you read more?”
The third thing I learned from this enjoyable reading experience was for students to follow their passions in reading. The teacher encouraged passion based reading in order for them to pursue different avenues of reading down the road. Like any person, if they get deeply involved into a hobby, that passion will eventually branch because of their desire to learn more about the subject. This is how I am with fly fishing (there was a fly fishing quote in Chapter Two! Go Norman MacLean!), I started out with an intense interest and it eventually it blossomed into a skillful practice. The great thing about reading is that it houses everyone’s passion in some way or another. Teachers just have to encourage students to seek out their niche, and from there it will grow. Kittle pretty much says to make reading a fun habit through personal relevancy and it will explode from there. She of course says it is not easy and teachers have to labor with their students (but it won’t feel hopeless). But Kittle doesn’t just say “teachers have to work with their students, blah, blah, blah; she gives example of how to do it. These include analyzing texts for possible barriers in comprehension, casual student interviews, and guiding students to the “right books” that align with their interests.
The reason why these first two chapters were amazing to me is because they read like a personal essay. I’m sure this was the goal for Kittle and it worked. Can’t wait to read more.