There are reading programs in schools today that are based on the premise that, if students read more, they will become better readers. This follows the sports model in which athletes practice certain skills every day, increasing their difficulty, until they improve their athletic ability. Does reading follow the same pattern, if students are asked to read more and more each day? Or does this exercise become a race to read, rather than a learning experience? The Florida Center for Reading Research (http://www.fcrr.org/fcrrreports/pdf/100bookchallenge.pdf) noted that:
“The National Reading Panel’s (2000) analysis of programs that encourage students to read more could find no gains in reading as a result of such programs…”
It was shown, the study goes on to say, that students who like to read, and are good readers, read more. Those who have difficulties read less, and enjoy it less. So encouraging poor readers to read more and more each day, does little for their enjoyment, or for their comprehension. However, the study did conclude that:
“An emphasis on reading for pleasure encourages motivation and engagement in reading for all students.” (http://www.fcrr.org/fcrrreports/pdf/100bookchallenge.pdf)
So perhaps allowing students to read what they want, when they want, is the way to motivate readers and help them to become lifelong readers. Providing a rich assortment of reading materials in a variety of formats, subjects and reading levels, and allowing students to choose what and when to read, could help them become motivated and inquisitive learners. Have we lost the time for free-choice reading in an age of test-based education? And have we lost the source of rich, varied literature as libraries lose their funding, and school libraries are abandoned? Students will always need lots of choices in reading material, whether libraries are available or not, so we need to begin planning for ways to provide them with a wide menu of quality fiction and nonfiction materials that they can access any time, any place. Whether or not they read every day, they need to have the chance to find books every day.