Kids choose the books

Getting kids to the point of sounding out words is one thing. Getting them to want to read is something else.

"We don't value reading. Go into a high school and you'll see computers," says Mary Leonhardt, a teacher at Concord-Carlisle High School in Massachusetts.

Reading experts say motivation to learn to read is a key to reading development among children. Ms. Leonhardt insists that the way to do this is to find out what kids love and to let them choose their books.

"In most schools, a huge proportion of kids don't even read the assigned reading. And most teachers have students start a book and read straight through, quizzing as you go. That's not how avid readers read - they jump around and read two or three books at the same time."

Will Barron says that before taking one of her classes, "I didn't like to read anything." He also didn't like reading the mystery books in a sophomore elective called "Mystery," so he read about hockey and baseball. "It was great," he says.

"I didn't think the course should get in the way of his reading. I supposed it could be a mystery if the baseball player made the hit," explains Leonhardt, who has written four books, including "Keeping Kids Reading" (Three Rivers Press).

Classmate Alexandra Granato says that she used to "despise" assigned reading: "[William Golding's] Lord of the Flies" was tedious and there were lots of Cliff notes floating around."

But she found some mystery writers that she loved in the class. This summer, she picked up Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina." I was very intimidated, but it's good. Last summer, I didn't do a lot of summer reading. Now I just sit and read," she says.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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