Monday, June 6, 2011

Readicide by Kelly Gallagher

So this mother and son came in the other day and asked if I can find some books on the Accelerated Reader list for them.  This is a unfathomably huge list, so I told them to just go pick out some books and I'll let them know how many points each was worth.

(FYI: Accelerated Reader and it's Scholastic counterpart, Reading Counts, are computer software packages that schools buy for their students. They offer personalized reading quizzes on books which the students take after finishing a book.  Supposedly, this will allow teachers to monitor their reading levels and comprehension.)

Half an hour later, the boy comes back with four books that were in the section where I'd led him. They were all his grade level. And, surprisingly, they were older books (I can't remember the last time someone turned up a Jean Craighead George or a Robert C. O'Brien.)  So, I cheerily looked up the books for him--if you're curious about it, you can look up books here. They were all worth between 7-11 pts.

His mom immediately gets flustered and hands them all back to me and says these will never work. He needs 25 pts. By next week.

So, I'm racking my brain trying to think of books that might work.  I show him the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson, the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, Harry Potter.

They end up taking Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  It's worth 32 points. He has never read any of the Harry Potter books, but mom thinks it'll be fine to start him here.  They check it out along with the audiobook and the dvd.

I  pounded my head against my desk and questioned my calling in life.

Anyways, in case you haven't picked it up already, the point of this post is that I truly believe that we are conditioning kids to hate reading. Kelly Gallagher, an English teacher, wrote a great little book called Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It.  In it, he posits that by over teaching novels and giving extensive exams to measure comprehension we are constantly jerking kids out the reading flow.  I know all you book people know what the reading flow is--getting so entirely caught up in a story that you forget to cook dinner and end up staying up until 3 a.m. because you can't put that book down.  The ability to get into that reading flow is the only thing that will ensure lifelong reading.  The way it is now, most kids can't wait to finish school and never have to crack a book again.

<I checked this book out of my library.>


  1. I LURVED AR as a kid! But it wasn't required, at least not that I remember, just something we did for fun. Sounds like the mom wasn't a very good decision maker!

  2. I probably would have been all over it, too, since I could get awards for something I loved and was good at (unlike sports).

    It's situations like this that make me cringe, though. Procrastinating kids and pushy parents--ugh. Plus, I worry about all the little guys who don't have books in the home and are probably stressed to death over these required reading quizzes (in our local school district they're required).

    Then there's the whole question of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation and whether these students will keep the enthusiasm for reading once the reward system is no longer in place.

    What I particularly appreciated about Gallagher's piece is his point that creating lifelong readers has to do with introducing them to the reading flow. If you can get a kid so excited about a book that she'll stay up all night reading it under the covers with a flashlight--you've got a lifelong reader. AR tends to pull you out of the flow because you've constantly got to be thinking of potential quiz questions. Kids who do really well with AR were most likely avid readers to begin with.

    Sorry for the five paragraph essay--I am so conflicted about this issue. :) Because, you're right, in my heart I know that I would have loved this program, too.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog, btw. I am such a fan of A Striped Armchair (I'm the goofy librarian who e-mailed you back in March.) I'm loving the "suggested companion reads" feature you've got going.