A central goal of the English Language Arts department of Black Horse Pike Regional School District is to establish a reading habit in the busy lives of our high school students. Through independent reading assignments, we want to develop reading fluency and stamina, which result in increased reading rates and thus, help students develop confidence, build vocabulary, and improve writing. It is our hope that we can work together with parents to ignite and sustain the pleasure and passion of young readers as well as to instill a comfortable confidence in students as they build stamina for reading in preparation for college and career. Because reading for an hour or two in one sitting is a basic expectation in college and is often required in any workforce training program, we will exercise muscles soon to be strained in the coming years.
Independent reading will be based on student choice, either through a list provided by teachers, through a student’s own research, or through recommendations made by fellow students. By choosing a book to read, students are more likely to read rather than search the internet for summaries. By choosing a book, students can see that a good book is more than an assignment. It can open minds and provide experiences that they would otherwise never come to know: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…. The man who never reads lives only one” (George R.R. Martin).
The best books challenge our beliefs by helping us see through different eyes – to live different lives. One of the benefits of reading is that it allows us to confront our worst fears and live through them. For example, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher is about a teen suicide and Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult is about a school shooting. We would all rather believe that such tragedies will not happen to us, and, if they have happened to us, we may not want to live through the details in a book. Students will not be forced to read something they are not comfortable with in an independent reading assignment, but they may choose a book that contains intense subject matter and that challenges how they view the world. With the volume of books available, we will not know the details of every book student read this year or even every book recommended by teachers and students within the classroom walls. It is important to know that we will not place a tight filter on what is read in class. What we want is to nurture each student’s willingness to read – for pleasure, for knowledge, for understanding – so that they choose to read beyond assigned reading, beyond the goal of one independent reading selection per marking period.
Because we respect your role as parents and the traditions you hold sacred, we understand your right to more closely monitor your child’s choices this year. You should feel free to contact the teacher to discuss any boundaries you may have set for your child’s reading choices, but please know that the teacher will not be able to control what students choose to read. We hope you talk to your children about what their reading selections, and we recommend you read with your child so that you can discuss any concerns about the content and foster a deeper understanding of an author’s purpose. If you want to know more about a book that your child is reading, please consult the School Library Journal website (http://www.slj.com ), the American Library Association website (http://www.ala.org ), Barnes and Noble’s website (http://www.barnesandnoble.com ), or contact your child’s teacher.
If you are so inclined, please consider donating books you no longer need to our classroom libraries. Our classroom benefits from castoffs. Better yet, schedule a visit with your child’s teacher so that you can share a book with us. We welcome guest speakers who seek to share their passion for reading. Thank you for your support.