Opening the Floodgates

We are reading Readicide as a department this year, which is something I’ve wanted to do now for two years, ever since Bill Ferriter announced that he was profiling the book on his site and interviewing the author, Kelly Gallagher via Voicethread.

Today was the first meeting of one of the groups within the department, a group of middle school language arts teachers.  We met to discuss the first two chapters of the book, which, if you haven’t read it, delve into the definition of Readicide and the statistics he examined to coin the term.

Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.

Gallagher also talked about something I’ve noticed since I have been in elementary buildings and secondary buildings: a gradual decline in curiosity.  Gallagher called it enthusiasm for reading, but today one of the group really summed it up by saying that by the time these students reach the upper grades in a middle school, much of their natural curiosity has been mined from them.  They don’t necessarily hate reading, but they don’t see any purpose behind it if it doesn’t either serve to get them a grade, or is required for something within their class.

My question in response to everything said today was a variation on the protocol What-SoWhat-NowWhat in that I wondered aloud that if we take what we say about our students and their inherent lack of curiosity, or their lack of attention span, or their penchant for reaching for SparkNotes when confronted with an outside reading novel, than what now?  Do we look the parents of these students in the eyes and say, “Well, what we’ve done in the past just isn’t working well here, so, I’ll just keep doing it.”

No.  And that is why I think Gallagher’s book really has legs.  We are only in chapter 2 and we are already seeing glimpses of what he prescribes as the cures to readicide, and what he is offering so far sound less like individual classroom fixes, and more like a school-wide committment to textual immersion.

Which I dig.

More to come as we get deeper into the discussions.

Image Credit: “Overwhelmed,” from Kozumel’s Photostream.
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4 thoughts on “Opening the Floodgates

  1. How about the fact that many of us as teachers discount the fact what our students like to read? I have heard, Harry Potter has no literary value, or why have them read Lord of the Rings? My response was always, because it helps to increase their love of reading and shows that we can be interested in what they like. A great teacher can make connections between Harry Potter and the classics. I saw it done in a classroom where this year a teacher made the connection to Beowulf, and the students were beyond engaged.

    1. That’s a great connection to make, and there are many teachers who do just that on a daily basis. Chris, you should pick up a copy of the book–it’s worth taking a look at in terms of how to build literacy within a school. We are really going to begin digging into our College Prep level classes this spring, and I plan on using situations like the one you talk about, and much of what Gallagher brings to the table, to help our staff work through creating a new environment for the students in College Prep.

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