Penny Kittle never ceases to amaze me. Never. I read her professional development books, and I am suddenly so excited to spread the reading bug. I want to be in the classroom right now.
One of my favorite takeaways from Book Love was the way Penny Kittle connects her students to their reading. I’m personally not a fan of reader’s notebooks. I’ve had to do similar tasks in my own classes that really feel like busy work. I spend more time on them when I want to be spending more time reading, but I also understand that I need to find some way to keep my students accountable in their reading. Kittle finds a really nice balance.
She has several notebooks in her classroom all labeled with themes: overcoming adversity, love, isolation, suffering, friendship, etc. Periodically, she sets all of the notebooks on a table and tells students to select one theme that might relate to the book they are currently reading. Students write short summaries while connecting the theme.
Kittle’s students are not being forced to read books they’ll purposely avoid. Instead, they are being encouraged to read literature that intrigues them. Not only are they reading in large amounts, her students are connecting and analyzing big issues. AND THEY PROBABLY DON’T EVEN REALIZE IT.
Penny Kittle has a giant board in her classroom that connects classic works of literature to whatever her students are reading. They think through how some of the issues in Pride and Prejudice might relate to modern books like Sold.
We don’t have to prove that our kids are thinking critically by forcing them to read classics and analyze every small piece of symbolism. Perhaps they even read the books (full disclosure: I usually didn’t). What kind of longevity does that produce?
Students become passionate readers because they’re engaged. They are intrigued by the material; they are learning, they are growing. Students are making powerful connections. Reading is rewarding and fascinating.
We need to teach as if this is true.
We need to allow students to be creative, to have a choice, and to make connections in books that are relevant to them.