In elementary and middle school, I enjoyed having a book to read after I had gotten my work done. It gave me something to do while others were finishing up since I usually was one of the first ones done.
What happened since then? Well, in high school, part of the Honors Language Arts curriculum is the Accelerated Reader (AR) requirement: In order to pass an Honors Language Arts class, you were required to get 20 AR points per quarter. AR is a program that allows students to read books and take multiple-choice comprehension quizzes that give out points based on the difficulty of the book. This was nothing new; I had taken AR quizzes since either first or second grade.
I did not see this as much of a problem freshman year, sophomore year I found it a nuisance, and junior year I was taking Honors Language Arts 11 and taking college level English classes in order to get out of doing AR my senior year. Reading became an assignment. I could no longer read for fun because I needed to read other books in order to get the AR points needed to pass the class. In order to get the 20 points, I would need to read at least 2 books. Sometimes I would need to read a third.
So once I was able to get out of doing AR my senior year, I did not want to read any more books. I had forced myself to read for several years in order to pass classes, and I was burnt out. Books became a form of torture for me, so why would I want to go back to that again?
Two years after I quit the AR program, I am still trying to get myself to read more for my own enjoyment. What has helped me the most: self-help books. I know that name gets a bad rap, but I find the books useful and practical. In school, I was more interested in nonfiction, but it was pretty dry. I could read fiction, but those types of books can seem a little cheesy at times. Those were also the types of books that were used for AR roughly 90% of the time. Self-help books have the storytelling element of a fiction book with the practicality of a nonfiction book.
Here’s the thing, though: I never read any of these books until the end of my senior year when I got a book from the college library. I never saw these books in grade school. In fact, the only experience I have had from these books were people that made fun of the genre. I can’t remember what was said about them, but I sensed that the genre got put down a lot.
So what’s the point of me telling this story? I want to tell you because I would like to see more teachers offer students self-help books in class or at the library to check out, especially at the high school level. I do not understand why schools do not have these type of books. And maybe my experience was just at my school. But would it be worth getting a few of these type of books so students can see if they like them or not?
What has been your experience with reading throughout school? What has been your experience with self-help books, either for you personally or in your school or classroom?
Note: This is not a complete put-down of the Accelerated Reader program. Up until it became a requirement, I loved reading books for AR points. My middle school made a competition out of it. Once it became an assignment, though, I fell out of love with it because I no longer associated it with fun like I had before. I enjoy the program, I do not enjoy how it was used at my high school.