My focus this summer has certainly been the wonderful myriad of new tools available on the 2.0 web. But as I enter my final week before school resumes my thoughts turn to ways of inspiring kids to read.
One of the biggest challenges with high school kids is to get them to look beyond the cover. I always cringe when I see a student drop a book like a hot coal when one of their classmates gives them THE LOOK. You know, the one that says, "I wouldn't be caught dead reading that and you are such an idiot for even picking it up." A colleague passed on a great activity, a Book Pass, for helping students move beyond that. It's most effective with Gr.8/9s. Before the kids arrive in the library I set out a good variety of titles in groups of four on tables. The kids sit four per table and then are given 4-5 minutes to look at each of the books, passing the books around the table after each reading. They must try to learn as much about each book as they can in that time. At the end of the time they discuss which books interested them and vote on which one they would recommend to the rest of the class. This forces them beyond the cover and into the text where the really good decisions can be made.
Another favourite activity I play with them is good cover, bad cover. This works well when you have a title like Ender's Game which was re-issued with a cover more appealing to 10-year-olds than high school kids. I hold up the books and get them to vote on which book is more appealing. The re-issue always gets fewer votes. Then I tell them it's the same book and also one of my favourites of all time.
I challenge students to stand up for their reading rights and not let others make decisions for them.
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