I have given my students the requirement of reading twenty books by the end of the school year. I assigned the requirement the second week of January, and I am giving them up to the very last day of school, May 26th, to fulfill it. So, naturally, I am going to meet the same goal. You can see my progress on the left side of this blog.
My inspiration came from a book by Donalyn Miller called, The Book Whisperer. I have been astonished at the difference this goal has already made in my classroom - which is, of course, combined with at least fifteen minutes of reading time every day. Just barely over a month and my students have read and written more
than all the previous months combined. I have been more motivated to read as well; I have completed several books myself, and am using this goal to search out the YA genre, as well as inspire my students to read.
I have one criticism, however, and I think it's an important one - one that I'm not sure how to overcome. I can't help but be discouraged about the fact that a reading goal like this begets fast reading. This is something that Miller, in her experience, which is vast, claims improves reading ability more than anything else.
I believe her. The only thing is, fast reading (or reading in bulk) is not always a good thing.
Right now I'm rereading a book by one of my all time favorite authors, George MacDonald. The book is Phantastes, and is so good I will not rush through it. I find myself "stuck" on certain passages because they are simply too beautiful to read only once. I read and reread such parts, marveling at the depth of thought, savoring the truth of such imagination.
...I lay half dreaming in the hot summer noon, with a book of old tales beside me, beneath a great beech; or, in autumn, grew sad because I trod on the leaves that had sheltered me, and received their last blessing in the sweet odours of decay; or, in winter evening, frozen still, looked up, as I went home to a warm fireside, through the netted boughs and twigs to the cold, snowy moon, with her opal zone around her...
I think I've read that at least five times in the last two days. I'm entranced by the feelings these words invoke, and MacDonald takes me to a place I want to go in my mind, and in my body, over and over again.
So, if I'm too concerned about finishing the book - which is an admirable goal - how can I read and reread parts of a book that deserve more attention? How can I relish words that I can't afford to rush past because the beauty is too profound to go one more day without?
So there's the balancing act: improving reading skill while teaching the art of savoring a book.