Why kids need to read what they want

A new book by Jeffrey Wilhelm and Michael Smith (available for purchase now via download, and in print in January) makes a powerful case for the importance of letting kids read what they want.

The culmination of five years of research into the nature and variety of pleasure reading, Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want - and Why We Should Let Them demonstrates the complex and rigorous intellectual work children do when they read genres like vampire books, horror, fantasy and Harry Potter novels.

We'll be sharing more from Jeff and Michael and from their new book in the coming months, but here's a wonderful quotation from the must-read article they recently contributed to The Atlantic:

We want to help our students fall in love with books in ways that foster a life-long devotion to reading. So what should schools do? We think the implications of our research are manifold, but two seem especially compelling.  First, our data make clear that educators should consider interpretive complexity in concert with textual complexity, a centerpiece of the Common Core State Standards.  Every text our participants read—from graphic novels to dark fiction to Harry Potter—required sophisticated strategies for entering a story world and absorbing the twists and turns of the plot line and character relationships.  All fostered deep intellectual engagement.

Our data also convinced us of the importance of choice. Students should have regular opportunities to behave the way adult readers do and choose their own reading.   They know the kinds of texts from which they will take pleasure. At the same time, teachers should expand the possibility of pleasure by introducing students to new books they might not select on their own."