Canon schmanon, or letting kids read what they want to read

I mostly agree with the approach put forward by the teacher in this article in the NYTimes (The Future of Reading – ‘Reading Workshop’ Approach Lets Students Pick the Books).

I think the important thing is to first get kids to read, and then secondly get them to read books that teach them how to read better. Reading stale classics from the Canon will discourage reading. But kids should also be challenged to read more than what they like.

In High School I read and loved all of the Shakespeare plays that I had to read. But the list of those plays that we read was very short. And if I had decided to read King Lear instead of Romeo and Juliet, or Henry V instead of Julius Caesar, would that have been a bad thing? Same with poetry, short stories, etc.

With the coming of digital books and other means of accessing the classics, it would be better if kids had more freedom to pick what they want to read, with the teachers providing them guidance as to what they are reading and why it is relevant.

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