Nuggets of wisdom are often found in unexpected places. I’ve found wisdom—not in columns of the Acropolis, in the stones of Sinai, or in the lecture halls of the Sorbonne. No, instead it’s hidden in the recesses of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).
The age-old debate about what kids should be reading attracted my attention this week. As my colleague Kathleen Porter-Magee observed last week, two camps seem to have emerged in the “what kids should read” debate: those who want more literary fiction in the classroom and those who want more informational non-fiction.
But should what kids read supersede the question of why kids read? ODE’s English language arts’ 11th and 12thgrade model curricula elegantly answers this question:
“They [students] must read widely and deeply from among a broad range of high-quality, challenging texts and develop the skill, concentration and stamina [emphasis in original] to read these texts independently and proficiently.”
Notice that ODE doesn’t prescribe book lists or even specific genres to read—there’s no specification of what kids read—so long as the texts are of “high-quality.” Even more importantly, notice the statement’s purpose clause: “to develop the skill, concentration, and stamina” of the student.
The purpose clause in ODE’s statement on reading has significance for why we teach reading, and secondarily, has implications for how we teach reading.
Let me illustrate with an anecdote. I was recently surprised to learn that the med school entrance exam is...