I’m taking this class, Literature for Children and Youth, as part of my school library certification coursework (I know, right! Like, I get to read amazing picture, chapter, and young adult books for class…and get a grade!). Every week we are assigned to choose anywhere from two to fifteen titles from an extensive list based on genre, award, topic, etc. One week we were assigned to read four Newbery Award winners. Another week was historical fiction, etc; then, we are supposed to blog about them. Tough life, huh!
(part of) my TBR stash hanging out with some faves
But here’s the thing…I’m getting ready to wrap up on this class. This week is our final week of assigned reading (the topic, by the way, is banned and challenged books). As I’m going back through my blog posts one last time and publishing them, my eyes keep wandering over to my TBR (to be read) stack on the book shelf that my excellent friend and reading mentor, Donalyn Miller, bequeathed to me last spring as she was packing up her classroom library in preparation of her move from 6th to 4th grade. Here’s a small sample of the greatness that awaits me:
I am Arthur by Phillip Reeve
The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan
Want to Go Private by Sarah Darer Littman
Happy Face by Stephen Emond
Wolves, Boys, & Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler
White Cat by Holly Black
This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
AND..two 2012 titles that I know are serious contenders for major awards this year:
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
(just to name a few. I failed to mention The Diviners by Libba Bray that I reward myself with a little bit each night before I go to sleep)
Yes, they are still on my shelf, sadly. The thing is, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in graduate classes since June and do not allow myself to pull from my TBR stack until all of my assigned reading is done. And–no matter how amazing the assigned titles are (believe me…like awesome books!)–since I did not choose them on my own from an organic, have-to-read-this-right-now kind of base place in my reading soul, my assigned books do not bring me near as much pleasure as those that I received from friends as recommendations or that I discovered on my own on Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and review sources.
Guess where I’m going with this…
I count myself as a rather solid reader as an adult. There’s room for improvement–I could read faster, more extensively, widely. I could read a lot more nonfiction, biography, and histories. But on the whole…I’m not too shabby. And even I, a strong reader, feel that the reading experiences that I choose to engage in lead to much more meaningful exchanges between myself and the book…no matter how GREAT a book may be that was assigned to me.
Now, I’m thinking about my students’ reading experiences–all of them, from the alliterate, reluctant reader to my AP, advanced readers–all of them derive more pleasure, more meaning, more transformation as readers and people from the books they choose for themselves than any title I could put in front of them.
The message, folks, is simple. There’s a time and place for assigning reading. But to grow readers–real readers, who see reading as breathing in their lives, necessary for the expansion of their lives and souls–we must hold sacred the time and place for choice in our classrooms and in our students’ lives.