Beginning around the 3rd grade, students in our language arts program will read between 12 and 20 novels, biographies, poetry, and other books each year. We recommend that students read these books independently. Many parents are surprised at this recommendation because other literature-based programs recommend exactly the opposite -- that parents read books aloud to students.
This difference points to a divergence in educational philosophy and a fundamental difference in what it means to be a literature-based curriculum. We want children to read books themselves because we want them to
- develop their reading fluency and comprehension,
- participate actively in the learning process,
- engage in emotionally resonant activities, and
- become independent readers.
Reading Books Out Loud Is Wonderful
Please don't misunderstand. We love reading aloud to our kids. Until late middle school, most students' listening comprehension is greater than their reading comprehension. Parents can read books out loud at a much higher reading level than children could read by themselves. Children can be introduced to more complicated vocabulary and ideas when they are being read to by a parent.
We love read-alouds for all of the reasons mentioned above, and we do in fact recommend that students read with their parents for 30 minutes each day in addition to the reading that is done in the curriculum. This can be bedtime reading, and it can alternate between read-aloud and independent reading. The books can be on the topic of the curriculum or they can be just for fun.
Fluency and Comprehension Requires Practice
In our curriculum, however, we have other goals for our literature beyond transmitting ideas, content, and vocabulary. We want students to
- improve reading fluency and comprehension,
- participate actively in the learning and reading process,
- learn how to write by evaluating good writers,
- develop into independent learners, and
- engage in activities that are emotionally resonant.
Reading books independently is an essential part of the learning process with Moving Beyond the Page.
Literature Is a Great Tool for Teaching
Not all literature-based curriculum is the same, and it is important to understand the differences among them. With Moving Beyond the Page, students begin most language arts lessons with an independent reading. This is followed by questions to ensure that students engage with the reading on a deep level. But our use of the literature does not stop there -- we continue to use the literature in a variety of ways.
For example, when students receive a writing prompt, it may be built around the plot, characters, or conflict from the book. This has a number of benefits:
- Good writing involves communicating about something that students care about with passion and clarity.
- Writing about the motivations of a character that students are emotionally invested in is much more compelling than writing about something bland like their favorite ice cream flavor.
- When students care about a topic, even reluctant writers will be more invested in producing quality work.
Learn to Write by Reading Good Writing
To become a great writer, a student must evaluate good writing. We choose books for our program because they exemplify story elements such as
- character development,
- conflict, and
- point of view.
In most of our novel units, we ask students to track and evaluate the author's use of one or more story elements throughout the book. For example, if an author uses setting or point of view in a unique way, that is the aspect students will evaluate. If the plot is exquisitely crafted, we show students how it was put together, and through the use of well-crafted rubrics, we encourage them to write the same way.
We recommend that students read the books in our language arts curriculum independently. By doing so, children will develop their reading fluency, participate actively in the learning process, and are better able to engage in emotionally resonant activities based on the reading.