You know how when you meet someone for the first time and then you keep seeing them everywhere you go? So, you’ve seen them before but you haven’t noticed them because you didn’t know them? I have been thinking a lot about book choice lately both as it relates to my girls and the role it plays in the reading workshop. As a result, I am now seeing many things through the lens of children’s book choice.
Last week, I volunteered in our elementary school library. Katherine’s kindergarten class was there and my job was to check in and reshelve books while also helping the children to choose their next selection. Some kids chose within a minute while others really seemed to be struggling. With only moments to go before the class had to leave, one little girl was still trying to find just the right book. She kept going up to the librarian saying, “I want a book on cats.” Despite the librarian valiant attempt, none of the cat books presented seemed right.
As I watched this unfold, I suddenly realized what was going on. I knew this little girl has two black and white cats. I flipped through the books that had been presented to her and couldn’t find a single black and white cat on the many pages. When I asked her if she was in fact, looking for a cat that looked like her own, she said, “Yes!” as if I had stated the most obvious of all things.
Here was yet another reminder of how important it is to find literature that is personally meaningful to children. This little girl looked on the surface like an uninvested and unimpressed reader. Instead, she was incredibly motivated to read but not about any cat, about her cat.
In Lucy Calkins, A Guide to the Reading Workshop, she references a study conducted by Guthrie and Humenick in 2004. She writes,
If we hope to bring up a nation of readers, it is crucial to allow them to choose among high-interest books that they can read. In fact, Guthrie and Humenick did a meta-anaylysis of twenty two experimental or quasi-experimental studies of reading motivation and achievement and found four factors that were strongly related to student success. Ensuring students had easy access to interesting texts was the single most influential factor, and providing children choice over what they read and who they read with was the second most influential factor.
I love it when research is staggeringly clear. We must let the children choose and with this choice, will come success.