Whispering Books at Home or School
First, the book strongly resonates with me because I began teaching in middle school language arts. If I were to boil down Miller's book to its essence, I'd say that she is challenging teachers to make reading more real for kids, moving away from the artificiality of book projects and reports where students read novels in small groups or as an entire class study, focussing instead on kids choosing their own titles and reading, reading, reading. She attests to growth in both student interest in reading and their subsequent rise in test scores as they make their own choices and read...a lot! This paragraph (p. 51) especially speaks to me:
In The Power of Reading, his meta-analysis of research investigating independent reading over the past forty years, Stephen Krashen reveals that no single literacy activity has a more positive effect on students' comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, spelling, writing ability, and overall academic achievement than free voluntary reading. By loading the instructional day with traditional drill-and-kill activities such as weekly spelling and vocabulary lists and tests, grammar workbook exercises, and low-level comprehension assignments, all of which have a minimal or, in many cases, negative impact on student achievement, Krashen asserts that we are denying students access to the one activity that has been proven over and over again to increase their language acquisition and competence as communicators: again, free, voluntary reading.In the homeschool setting, opportunities for "free, voluntary reading" are abundant. Or at least they can be. But so much depends on the teacher, just as it does in the classroom. Some classroom teachers leave students little reading choices; it's no different in the homeschool setting. Some homeschoolers choose curriculum that prescribes what a child is to do from early morning til late in the afternoon. Others give children complete freedom to choose. Even with reading freedom I think Miller's plan hinges on the teacher (whether in the classroom or at home) knowing a wide variety of literature in order to continually recommend new options to the child. I suppose homeschool parents wouldn't need to have this personal knowledge as long as they were aware of the necessity and could find others (such as librarians) to help expose the child to a variety of books that would pique interest.
Whispering Other Subjects...like Math
The more I consider Miller's message, the more I wonder to what extent it should apply to other content areas. She talks about how in-school reading should look more like real-life reading. When you and I read, we select books that interest us. When we're excited about content, we share it with our friends in informal ways. We don't do projects. We're not forced to sit through slow, boring studies with 30 of our closest friends, analyzing for character, setting, plot, etc. as we go.
So how does this thinking apply to other subjects? Why should we complete dozens of math problems when there are real-life math opportunities--dozens of them--encountered by students on a daily basis? Why should we read science texts if we can experience science in the real world? How do we authenticate "school" whether the location is at home or in a public building? What if we take the following sentences from Miller's book and replace the bold (mine) with other subjects/content (in parentheses) such as math?
My students' self-concept as readers (mathematicians) must extend beyond the classroom...(at home or at school)...or they have gained nothing lasting from me. If teachers (or homeschoolers) control reading (mathematics), we never give ownership of it to students. Students will not walk out of our classrooms (homes) with internal motivation to read (do math) if they see reading (math) as an act that takes place only in school under the control of their teachers. Reading (math, science, etc) ultimately belongs to readers (learners), not schools, and not schoolteachers (whether at home or at school.) p. 171I have no answers, but I'm interested in the discussion. Have you read Miller's book? What are your thoughts? How does it apply to homeschooling? What about other content areas during the school day?