Last spring I conducted a qualitative study on why high school students were resistant to reading. I was substituting at the high school level, and it disturbed me to see that most of the students I observed did not crack open a book at school. This is what led me to my study. I wanted to find out if any of these students were reading at all.
As I interviewed random students for my research on resistant readers, I became painfully aware that these students are only resistant to the literacy that is offered to them in the classroom. The students were disinterested in the lessons that the teachers assigned them, and especially anything that had to do with the textbooks. They gave many reasons, from “The textbooks were not written well,” to “They are boring and have very few pictures.”
When I asked these same students about their reading habits outside of school, it was a completely different story. They had a wide range of literacies outside of school. Some of the students were reading novels by Stephen King and others were into the new graphic novels like Manga. The other students were reading magazines and comics. What was interesting is that all of these students read avidly outside of school.
So what is the problem? Why aren’t these students reading in school? It is obvious of course! The research I read on this supported that the curriculum and textbooks that we are using are not working. It also supported that students’ interests in reading lie outside of school. As teachers, we need to incorporate the students’ reading interests into the school curriculum. It is time to take the old curriculum and give it new life by using authentic literacy that relates to the students.