More and more often, schools and English teachers have been implementing specific books into English curriculum as required reading. Requiring certain books to be read not only hinders students’ ability to think and process information but also makes reading the book less pleasant.
One of the novels which has fallen victim to the plague of required reading would be Fahrenheit 451. Many students are being forced to read the book this year – and several of them have already read it in previous school years.
“I’ve read it a couple of times before,” said Sydney Streicher, a sophomore at Steinbrenner High School. Streicher would likely have more insight into Fahrenheit than most other people in her class; however, this may prove to be a disadvantage. Having read the book so many times, she has probably run out of quality ideas that she hasn’t seen or used before.
In addition, Streicher reads for fun outside of school and enjoys reading in general. This sentiment, however, is not frequently shared by other students. Many of them find reading boring, especially if the book they read is not one that they choose.
“I don’t really like being required to read, if I don’t pick the book. If the book is boring then I won’t be interested and engaged,” mentioned sophomore Luke Rude, “normally, the books bore me.”
Rude is currently reading a different book: World War Z. His English teacher, Mrs. Emily Vona-Kelley, among a few others, allows her students to forgo many of these effects of reading one book in the class by letting them choose their books.
“If a student had a negative experience when they were learning about or reading [Fahrenheit] before, they may bring that negative feeling into the classroom again when reading it a second time,” shared Vona-Kelley.
Kelley uses a strategy called the “Tournament of Books” to enhance student voice in the process of selecting an independent reading book. After introducing a total of 16 pre-approved books to 8 small groups, the groups choose the book they like best in a tournament-style bracket. Eventually, three to four books come out on top, and students can choose the book that they want to form literature circles with from there.
“If you want students to be reading, then sometimes giving them a selection, a set of options is the best choice,” revealed Vona-Kelley.
Already, her philosophy has borne fruit. Students like Rude get to have a better reading experience, without reading unapproved books.
“I personally wouldn’t mind if teachers did the tournament of books because I don’t think reading is half bad,” explained Rude, “it would be good for students because it can broaden their horizons for book genres and maybe encourage them to read more.”
Other teachers across the school should certainly adopt this strategy to improve the attitudes their students have towards books and literature analysis. It satisfies the students’ need for interest and provides them with new insight and fresh ideas, while still giving the teachers control over the process and what books are shown.
Anthony Menold // Staff Writer