In chapters 8 and 9 of Penny Kittle’s Book Love, she discusses the importance of creating solidarity and cooperation within not only the classroom but the school as a whole. She talks about how reading time was implemented schoolwide in order to encourage literacy and engagement with the written word. My school did something similar to this when I was in high school that was much less successful. You see, rather than creating a supportive and encouraging environment for free reading, my school made it mandatory to the point where you could get a detention if you were not reading during the assigned reading time. By “not reading” I mean everything from conversing with classmates to trying to finish homework.
This was a problem for many students for multiple reasons:
- It defeated the whole purpose of the exercise which was to encourage reading and not make it a chore.
- It increased stress for students who were trying to complete homework in what was potentially the only chunk of time they were going to be able to do it.
- The responsibility was put on the students to find books without suggestions and support from the teachers.
- This was problematized even further because students were not allowed to run to the library to get a book if they had forgotten one and there were none kept on hand for students in the case of this eventuality. In fact, students were punished if they had not brought in a book.
This gave students the feeling that our school did not actually want to implement this program and were instead doing it because they had to for one reason or another. Such an issue might have arisen because our school’s teachers and administrators were too focused on state standardized tests. I remember teachers going over the syllabus the first day of class and summarizing their introductory speeches by saying something like, “Essentially, our entire goal is to prepare you for the standardized tests.” There was nothing about preparing us for college, preparing us for the workforce, or even preparing us for life. It was all about preparing us for a ridiculous test that was going to have absolutely no bearing on our lives outside of the hour or two we spent taking it.
Because the school seemed uninvested in both our literacy and our learning, the students were miserable and many transferred to other schools for better opportunities and learning experiences. Kittle and her school, on the other hand, were successful because they were so invested. Throughout chapters 8 and 9, you can tell how their investment had a positive impact on individuals and the student body as a whole. Therefore, I am determined to exhibit that same investment in my own classroom because I do want my students to be healthy, happy, safe, and successful, whatever that means for them.