I’ve been an apprentice in a fifth grade classroom for three weeks now. So far, there has not been a nonfiction book in sight. I don’t anticipate the next three weeks will be any different. As my understanding of the demanding schedule and curriculum requirements imposed by the district increases, so does my sense of the problem.
The students are currently completing a unit on realistic fiction. That means they are reading realistic fiction in their reading groups, writing their own realistic fiction stories in writing workshop and borrowing realistic fiction during their weekly visit to the school library. In other words, immersion as an educational approach.
While I can certainly see the value in this, I’m naturally drawn to what this leaves out. The school day is jam-packed and there is rarely any time for kids to just pull out a book and read. Half an hour of reading for homework is standard but, yet again, free choice within the boundaries of the literary unit. Is the average kid going to pick up a different kind of book during the week and do additional reading? I think we all know the answer to that.
Reaching for a good book of one’s choice. It’s so very personal and essential to foster a love of reading. We all know that kids love nonfiction and that, if given the choice, a kid will often choose it over fiction. Right now, in fifth grade, kids are getting their daily dose of nonfiction by studying reading comprehension passages for standardized tests. It seems like it’s come to this. Do we try, once again, to overhaul the imperfect system? How many voices can be heard? Difficult questions, to say the least. While we mull them over, I’m going to start small. But I’m definitely going to start. I don’t think I could teach any other way. I’ll report back.