Letting children choose what they readSeptember 26th, 2013
Reading for pleasure and the importance of choosing booksSome rights reserved
Research shows that many well meaning, well read adults, are currently choosing their child’s reading for pleasure material. They are also often recommending too many books to their students and children on the grounds that they loved them when they were children.
Donalyn Miller states in her article ‘The importance of choice in fostering independent reading’ that ‘When every book a child reads is chosen for them — by parents or teachers — children lose self-motivation to read and interest in reading.
Access to a wide variety of print is of course key, but, we also need to allow our children to feel free to explore this variety. It is likely their choices will not match ours, but as long as they are reading, the main goal is achieved. It’s okay for children to read comics, graphic novels, and newspapers or read the same book again and again as we adults do.
Paul Jennings’ book ‘The reading bug’ (Penguin 2008) explains how to help your child ‘catch’ the reading bug. He dedicates a section of the book to providing a good selection of books to engage the reader. Great so far! He calls it ‘matching children and books.’ In essence, he is advocating finding the right book to match the reader and maintains there are no reluctant readers just children, who have not been introduced to the right book. He sees it as the teachers, librarians and parents role to provide the child with the ‘right book.’ When his adult children were little he would ‘occasionally give my (his) children the treat of choosing their own title...’ While I agree that we are facilitators and guide our children’s choices to an extent, it is vital to their development as readers that they learn how to select and make discerning choices so their journey to finding the right book is mostly their own. Better results are achieved if children (once offered the time) are given free rein to choose from a flood of books as opposed to being handed out what adults think will suit them.
An adult’s enthusiasm for selecting books can actually do exactly the opposite of what we want to achieve; empower and grow our children’s love of reading for pleasure. In order for students to engage with text, they must feel like they have control in selecting materials that are interesting to them. It is unlikely that a child will become passionate about reading when their books are being selected for them.
Regular visits to the public library, school library, class teachers talking to their students and respecting their preferences and borrowing from the National Library Services to Schools is vital. Having parent access to the school library is invaluable if possible.
There is a lot to be learnt from watching how and what children choose to read. A definite pattern grows and in most cases children’s choices tell adults so much the child’s personality.
Read this Nerdy Book Club article for more tips on self selected reading and for the top five reasons for letting kids choose their own books.
Parents must let children choose what they read, an article from the Guardian.
Find out more about student reading interests and strategies to help you match student's with the right books.