It seemed that in the past weeks there was a flurry of articles on kids and reading. How kids aren't reading enough. How kids aren't reading for pleasure. How kids who read for pleasure read more, but kids aren't reading for pleasure. And this article sparked an interesting conversation with some Facebook friends about the importance of reading and how we as parents and teachers can nurture a love of reading in our kids. (I always feel like the news is mostly bad, especially when it's about kids these days...)
I've been thinking a lot about writing here about Cal and reading. Many of my friends have been having school issues with their kids lately. Big ones. Considering changing schools. Considering leaving schools. Not us. I'm reminded regularly how grateful I am for Cal's school and the teachers he spends time with each day. Day to day life can never be completely peaches and cream (or strawberries and cream, which I'd prefer, actually), but taking the long view, I have a lot of faith and good concrete evidence that the adults Cal is surrounded by each day really do truly want not only each day to be good for him but have his best interests at heart. The take the long view. I like that.
They take the long view about reading in the English Department, and I really like that. If I had to put a name to it, I'd say that Cal's being educated classically when it comes to English grammar and literature. Right now, he's reading Great Expectations, and earlier this year it was A Catcher in the Rye. Last year? A Separate Peace and To Kill a Mockingbird. And the 10th grade Wuthering Heights paper is a pretty big deal, apparently. Peers of his at other schools are reading different stuff, more contemporary, and Cal's reaction to that is bemusement.
An argument in favor of reading the more contemporary stuff is that maybe you meet kids where they are. But Cal is enjoying these classics. And as far as meeting kids where they are? That effort to let kids read what they want to encourage a love of reading? Well, enter Free Read Friday.
The entire English Department at Cal's school, through the middle and upper schools, participate in Free Read Friday. And what this means is that in class on Fridays you read. And you read what you want to read. Your pick. Sure, your choices need to be within reason (Tin Tin comics likely not allowed), but from crime novels to science fiction to biography, pretty much anything goes. Cal's reading choices have ranged from The Hot Zone to John Grisham this year alone.
Cal likes to read. He's a reader. I have pictures of him reading on the MARTA in Atlanta, and somehow I ended up carrying one of his novels all day long after he just had to finish it on the metro when we were in Paris. It's not hard to encourage him to read. But he's also 15 and has a heavy course load in school, and the way he relaxes is, let's face it, to the Simpsons or a game on his phone. Reading for fun just doesn't happen during the week. So I LOVE Free Read Friday. I love what he's reading and discussing in class during the week, and I love that his teachers see the value of digging in to some Grisham too. I'm pretty much down with all of that.