Required reading requires skills to comprehend it. I’ve observed in a seventh-grade reading class where half of the class was at a second to fourth grade reading level. How did we get this way? Most importantly, how can fix it, in both the present and future?
We know kids aren’t prepared, yet we teach them at the level they are supposed to be at, rather than the level they are at. Little bit of struggling can be good, but only with the right readers, or it will turn the reader off. If there were no challenges in life, we wouldn’t grow as leaders, as learners, as people. Students need to read challenging books to improve their abilities. What we call the classics are often too challenging for the readers we expect to be reading them. By allowing the appropriate amount of time for a reader to develop on their own, we can introduce required reading as a stepping stone, not a mountain. We need to keep in mind “the appropriate amount of time” is different for everyone.
Perhaps required reading at a younger age would help close the gap between what students can do and what is expected of them. In our early elementary school days we learn how to read and about the time we are in middle school, class books are assigned at what is supposed to be our average reading level. There are a couple of issues here. First, the emphasis on reading from third to six grade sometimes gets lost, along with the excitement of learning whatever an individual pleases. This leads us into our next issue. Some students still read all they could in those grades while others didn’t; one of the sources of the reading gaps.
The other source? Different minds, same education.
The key to keeping natural curiosity is to let them wander in books. Once they’ve wandered on their own and learned how to enjoy reading for themselves, then it is time to introduce them to the classics. Kittle outlines this idea: giving students the freedom to learn how they please, but keeping them on a similar path.