Reading Authentic Literature

This summer, students in READ 6313 Literacy Development and Language Study were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Rogelio Rios

As a teacher, I want to make certain that each and every student that enters into my classroom, leaves being a life long reader.  Reading authentic literature not only fosters critical thinking skills but also instills a love for reading.  Only authentic literature can create an ambiance of excitement and interest in my students that workbooks, worksheets and even the basal can’t do.

Due to federal mandates intended to raise the quality and level of literacy instruction, now we have so many standards to teach before administering the state mandated reading test. Many of us worry about not having enough time to teach all the standards that will be assessed on the test so that teaching has become covering test taking skills, strategies and standards. I don’t feel that this is helping students achieve their academic potential. The focus should be on the content and meaning of reading authentic literature and not on skills and strategies.

With so many skills to cover before administering the state mandated reading test, many educators would say that due to time constraints teaching from a worksheet or workbooks is convenient. These workbooks come with questions to go with the reading selection. Teaching students skills in isolation doesn’t transfer into knowledge that they can retrieve later. Reading in isolated skills from workbooks is unrelated to their lives and experiences. When a child is working on a worksheet they’re not internalizing what they’re learning. Besides, not all the students are the same, It’s unlikely that a worksheet will help each child meet their academic goals.  We are making students be test takers instead of life long readers.

I wish magic sticks would exist so that I could make assessments that are making students become disengaged from school disappear and replace them with authentic ways to assess the students.  Testing students in ways that don’t involve multiple choice answers or filling a paper with strategies before they can answer the questions. Students who read for fun have higher reading scores than students who rarely read for enjoyment. Children who are engaged in authentic literature are actively discussing plots and characters and finding ways to relate this to their own lives. They are going home and discussing books with their family. These are the type of student we want to have in our classrooms.  Our school districts, along with our state, and federal government need to be aware that there needs to be a change in our school system.

Again, authentic literature fosters not only the critical thinking skills that our students need, but also a love for reading that is not found on worksheets, workbooks and basal. By reading authentic literature students will have many favorite books that they will want to read over and over again.

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