Top Ten Reasons Students Should Read More Whole Books and Fewer Passages and Packets by Cari White
This seems like a list that should be written by Captain Obvious, right? Of course students should read whole books from beginning to end! But does that really happen at your school? Or does the workroom copier groan under the load of stapled packets with “passages” and related multiple-choice questions? Are students unable to find their library books because they haven’t seen them in so long?
Students deserve time during the school day to read books, one page after another, journeying with the author through every scene to the end of the book. Why?
- Empathy. Students need time to walk in another person’s shoes, a fictional character who is different from them. We develop empathy by looking at life through someone else’s eyes, thinking their thoughts and feeling their emotions. This rarely happens in a few short paragraphs. We need to fully experience the triumph of a lonely child making a friend and the journey of a reluctant hero before we can truly understand those viewpoints.
- Treasure. Reading is a treat, a sweet delight, the dessert to the healthy meal of math facts and spelling tests. Reading should not become the drudgery of filling in bubble answers, or of toiling through passages about characters we don’t have enough time to know or care about.
- Movies. I often explain to students that when I read a book, I see the story happening like a movie in my mind. I want our students to have enough sensory descriptions to build the whole world of the book in their imaginations, to watch the scenes unfold as the pages turn. That world can’t be built in five paragraphs.
- Canned Spinach. Have you ever tried a food that was poorly cooked? And after that, you didn’t want to try that food ever again? I ate plenty of canned spinach in my childhood, and I don’t care to ever see spinach in any form on my plate. If we serve our students canned words on plate after plate, day after day, is it any wonder that they push away from the reading table?
- Choices and Consequences. Our library has many books where characters make unwise choices and experience the harsh consequences that life provides. I want my students to live vicariously through choices like theft, dishonesty, or meanness, so that they don’t have to experience that pain for themselves. They need to be fully invested in the character through chapters of life before they will fully feel the impact of that life lesson.
- Travel. Many of our students will never leave the town we teach them in, much less our country. How will they know what it’s really like to flee from the violence of war or to walk miles for clean water? How will they visit the streets of Harlem or a Vietnamese jungle? Yes, they can gain factual knowledge in a paragraph. But will they know what life in another place is really like?
- Identity. Many librarians have experienced the phenomenon of a student who can read very few words in a Harry Potter book wanting to check it out anyway and carry it around so that she can be known as a Harry Potter reader. Do you know any students who want to proudly display their comprehension packets?
- Growth. We learn about life and how to be a human as we watch characters grow and change over the course of a novel. When parents spend more time on their devices than they do talking to their children, educators need allies like the Penderwicks and other fictional families to help us teach students how to be a friend, a brother, a sister, and someday a parent.
- Dreams. What will our students be when they “grow up?” What kind of life can they imagine for themselves? We want our students to find role models they care about beyond the sensational media that bombards us. Admiring a cardiologist, or a mural painter, or a space explorer, those are inspirations worth their pursuit.
- A Good Story. To tell a good story takes time and many words. Our students deserve a life filled with well-told stories, rather than words engineered for the standards-based questions that can be asked. They deserve stories that will live on in their hearts and minds, thoughtful words influencing the humans that they will become.
Cari White has been an educator for 16 years and is currently the librarian at Fox Run Elementary School in San Antonio, Texas, where she loves to share whole books with her students. You can find more of her thoughts about growing readers at her blog, LibraryLearners.com.
Spot on, Cari! Your good thoughts are going straight into my writer’s tool box. Many thanks!
This is currently my biggest peeve- our new ELA curriculum is almost all excerpts. Not whole short stories, but weird excerpts not attached to any context or meaning. It’s so upsetting! Thankfully my principal supported me when I said I wouldn’t teach it that way.
Yes! This might be the best top 10 list I have seen in a while. I will be sharing this with my colleagues. Thank you for letting your voice be heard.
This is so true, Cari! I’m very glad you shared these thoughts with us today. My hope is that administrators everywhere will read your list and take steps to make it happen! – Susan
Your well written thoughts hit the spot! Thank you for the time you put into this list.
Reblogged this on Mayor of Bookopolis.
Yes! Excerpts can’t allow young readers to internalize the structure of stories. It’s like they’re trying to fit little pieces into a puzzle without every being able to see the bigger goal, the complete picture. Thanks for posting this article, Cari!
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. I taught for 20 years, and I hope and pray that Reading Workshop accomplished these goals and that my students are real readers.
I don’t know what the curriculums are like in your country, but in mine (South Africa), our students are overloaded with content. Even in Maths – they’re not given time to absorb method and content. It’s just quantity over quality, and so many students burn out by the time they reach high school….not to mention the ever-increasing diagnoses of anxiety, ADHD, and other mental issues (which were far less frequent in previous decades – before our schooling system went bonkers).
Time is something that is killed by sheer quantity – so how do students get time to relax and enjoy? WHen school work is so intense and fast-paced, many don’t WANT to use their brains to engage in the active act of reading. So, passive forms of entertainment like TV, movies, etc take top spot. And the mental flood of living in the information age only exacerbates the problem – because our attention spans have become shorter, I believe, as a result of things like social media and always-on online chats.
The luxury of reading, for most, is a stretch too far, unfortunately.
When it comes to novels especially, it becomes increasingly a problem when one of the luxuries and points of reading a novel or novella is to let it stir in your mind for quite a while for future contemplation. It’s almost too coincidental how the cluster of learning many different subjects in one day matches our fast-forward lives between youtube videos, social media, writing, reading, life, work, and everything under the sun. I think you’re right, it’s far too difficult at the moment to engage students in reading full works.
it’s about getting into the story, enjoying the details. 🙂
Being a student myself, I 100% agree to this. Excerpts never do let us connect with the characters, (speaking for books in general) but then again, i always thought that my utter fascination with reading and writing always owed to the fact why I’d read through the whole entire book instead of just the excerpts much like my peers. At the end of the day, if it was for a book report, both of us would do the same exact thing. So it would kind of seem like I wasted time trying to go in to the book really deep when I could’ve just skimmed through the storyline.
But this piece here gave me incentive to keep doing me.
Was great reading it and how simply it was put. 😀
I totally agree with you. The generation now is missing out on the magical world of books and you are definitely right. Great post btw.
Thanks for the article… I had no idea this was even an issue! Our family home-schools, and I suppose “whole book reading” is taken for granted in our home. I didn’t even know “whole book reading” was a legitimate term. I thought it was just “reading”. Your list is brilliant, and hopefully more children will be taught and allowed to experience the pleasure of devouring complete stories.
The habit of reading whole books must be encouraged in children. There’s lots they can learn from there.
I especially like what you said in the “identity” section. So true! Seeing kids doing that always makes me inspired to dig in and work even harder to help them become the reader they long to be.
Definitely agree with this post completely.
Real growth is something I always hope to see in students, but I am a Substitute Teacher and my reading experience is that some kids are slower to grow than others. But year after year I watch for signs of development through maturity and I can report that it DOES happen with time. Great post. Great list of authentic reasons!
I couldn’t agree more. Books are an escape hatch for many to relax from a fast-paced world; you wouldn’t want to rush an escape.
I totally agree with you! Reading is a treat, not a punishment!
Amazing! There is a lot of psychology involved in reading and this needs to be instilled in kids, from a young age.
It is always good to read a book from start to finish. Reading a good book gets you to really try to guess what is going to happen or how it will end. I have always enjoyed reading books as a source of entertainment and a good way to pas the time. This post is really good and very well thought out.
I am new to wordpress. This was the first post I actually read. Couldn’t agree more. Everything is truncated and sped up for our children now days. Their eyes are glazed over with technology most of the time and its sad. I know technology is the here and now, but I talk to my kids daily about a lot you have mentioned here and am never going to give up on them. Thanks!
I am a middle school ELA teacher. I agree with you completely. I am an older teacher, and my students are reading books the entire school year. I shared this to my Facebook friends. Great write!
Wonderfully said! This really resonated with me.
I LOVE this! It reminds me of when I was a kid and for all of the lovely reasons why I loved to get lost in a good book! As an adult, I have to say I’ve lost some of that childlike wonder. : /
As a former classroom teacher/reading specialist, I now work privately with elementary and high school students. I despise the photocopied excerpts the students are assigned for homework. They are cold and disposable. What about the simple act of holding a real book in one’s hands? Looking at the cover? Reading about the author? Reading whole works also helps students see how writers put together a book. Imagine developing an appreciation of To Kill A Mockingbird without connecting the very first and last page. I only use excerpts as a means to teaching craft lessons.
Totally agree with you & couldnt have said better. Excerpts are cold, theres no heart in it, no feelings. Dont get me wrong – excerpts are great for those that need a quick summary but not for students – this is actually the time they should take to explore the beauty of real big books to help them establish love with reading. Because in the end, reading is one of the best habits you can develop!
Recently I just did myself 21-Day Daily Book Reading challenge to help me pick up my reading routine, and it was so great. Got the joy of reading again!
Great healthy tips to motivate us towards reading
Great post and oh so true. There is so much value in reading whole stories that is often unacknowledged or under appreciated.
As a primary school educator I agree with the points made above, especially the comment about books teaching empathy and fostering children’s imaginations. In the classroom, a well sourced book can also help to teach skills and concepts in context. It’s no good solely giving studentS a worksheet on rhyme (for example) when they could be detecting rhyme themselves through Dr Suess books, Hairy Maclary, Pig the Pug etc. Learning in context is the way to go, and books (from start to finish, read multiple times) are a great way to deepen understanding.
There should only be one reason to read a book and that one reason should be enough… KNOWLEDGE. However, these ten reasons are definitely part of the knowledge that reading provides. Some of the points really stood out, especially the point about travel and many of the students not leaving the town they are being taught in. This exact reason was why we wrote our travel guide book, Stress Free Currency. We felt that many people that grew up with similar conditions as us felt that they don’t get to travel or escape the regular routine of their lives, although reading can be that escape for us, nothing beats the real thing, and we were able to gain the courage from reading different kinds of books and exploring the imagination of many authors and writers. This list of top ten is really great and we hope many new parents adopt this wisdom and share the wonders of reading with their children.
Love love love and totally agree! Books and the characters and stories within them formed so much of my childhood and taught me many valuable lessons. It’s a shame that so many kids these days miss out.
Love love love and totally agree! Books and the characters and stories within them formed so much of my childhood and taught me many valuable lessons. It’s a real shame that so many kids today are missing out 😦
So true. Teachers and parents should incourage reading, and then discuss about it with children. Reading can open new worlds to you, it is a way of non-formal education, it broadens your horizons…
So glad you took the time to post this invaluable info. Now, if only more parents and teachers would follow it. Empathy, caring, deep thinking are too quickly falling by the wayside and I fear to think what we’ve done to our children and how it will come back to haunt us.
Student is one who study something and somewhere without naming any intuition .He who is gaining knowledge from any means and from anywhere can be called a student.nature is the best and largest book in the world from it all the knowledge has been derived.learning from the nature is practical for that no need to have any book that contain all information from nature in one way or other.
A great read and I agree Students should read more whole books it is so important to their development.
Spot on.It was a pleasure to read.
Very vividly brought out the idea of importance of reading in children life…in fact reading is important for everyone of us…I love every idea presented by you Cari.
Reblogged this on The Book Nook and commented:
This is very true
My mother used to buy books that she thought I’d like. I thanked her politely (I was seven) and hid them under the bed. When she finally discovered them she gave me pocket money so I could choose for myself. If I have empathy for others and good values it’s because my parents were a major influence in my life.
From the moment I could choose for myself I haven’t looked back. I love adventure stories, or did at some stage of my life, I loved fairy tales – lots of indirect consequences spelled out there; I loved Science Fiction that may have indirectly taught me about understanding those who are different to me. I have gone through a variety of genres and all they needed was to tell a good tale. A good school librarian (my sister is one) will attempt to find something that will appeal to each student.
Spot on! Unfortunately, a lot of teachers are okay having students read Cliffnotes or No Fear Shakespeare versus actually doing the work
This is true. We should cultivate reading habits in youngsters, as memorising textbooks can only take them so far.
Definitely got pointers from this read
Thank you for that beautiful post. I think reading also prompts children to do the imaginative work required to enjoy the book fully in turn making them better at visualisation.
I agree with you 100%! I remember growing up that there would sometimes be dedicated reading time and I think that really shaped my love for reading today. Books can take you to all kinds of different places, and I think that kids today will never know what that’s like if we as parents and educators don’t lead them. Fantastic post!
wow this is very informational I think this would help kids learn how to read fast then usual
I completely agree with all the reasons. But also would recommend the audiobooks as well, because listening to the stories is even more fun 🙂
I’ve always found that diving into a book is much better than simply reading tidbits of information. Getting lost in stories be it fiction or nonfiction is just such a treat that I think helps us in so many ways.
This is such a wonderful post, and one that I think everyone should see! As a young child, I was lucky to be constantly encouraged to read books, and continuously supplied with new reading material – and this led to me still being a voracious reader and lover of the written word.
The importance of books should never, ever be underestimated, for they hold so much within their pages!
Thank you for posting this, Cari – every point that you made here was a very valid one, and it was a great article to read 🙂
Wow! I totally agree! Are you a teacher?
Yes, you are absolutely right: making the effort to read a book from cover to cover is a great way to train ourselves to develop empathy. That is absolutely right: if one can’t walk a mile in a fictional character’s shoes or in the thoughts and ideas shared by the book’s author how can one learn to have the endurance to walk a mile in a real person’s shoes?
This taught me on some important facts..especially the empathy part
Ace! I am going to share this with the Literacy staff at our school. I especially love No. 4! Spinach in a can – I can’t think of anything worse…
I love the list. I would add that they need to develop the skills to FINISH a whole book. With today’s kids mostly reading txts and FB and IG headlines, in other words, abbreviated writing, they are losing or never developing true reading proficiency. It’s a scary thing. Some kids may never love reading, but they need to be able to focus long enough to read something they have to read.
Awesome post. This is really true.
Great post. I left teaching to go into full-time newspaper work in 2002 and returned to the classroom last year. I continue to be dumbfounded by the changes — especially when it comes to reading. I teach 11th grade English and I’m expected to take passages from excerpts from larger works to make sure they master the standards, for their tests. There is little attempt and even disdain for teachers who try to teach the works in context, or to assist the students in real life application that can help them appreciate the finer points and meaning of the works.
Being a student….I really agree with you .We should encourage the habit of reading among children..
This is great. I can relate to a lot of this because it took me a long time to figure out what I liked to read. When I got into mystery and fantasy, I read over 10 books a year back in elementary school. Thanks for this amazing post.
Looove this!! We need to give students more time to read and explore books, instead of reading only excerpts for practicing testing strategies. We need to model reading for enjoyment. We HAVE to encourage a love for reading for our children.
When I was in Highschool many many years ago I also read only the summary for some books… but let’s face it; racing through a book or reading only abstracts is like coitus interruptus http://www.clemenssuter.com
I totally agree with every word