When I learned to love to read, I was a messy and indiscriminate reader: I read anything I could, including tons of crap, and I read it recklessly. I destroyed books–ripped in my rush for the next page, jammed through the sharp teeth of a stuck-zippered backpack, milk-stained from breakfast, and, too often, lost under my bed, sometimes for so long that the story, when finally rediscovered, felt eerily like a long-forgotten dream.
Did you know the Oakland Public Library has a limit to how many books you can have out at once? It’s 40. As a kid, I hit that limit every summer.
I am not trying to write about me, not really, but I think my history’s important here. I, like many of my students, was an exemplary childhood reader. This is no surprise; like most avid readers, I grew up around people who loved to read, who read to me and surrounded me with books. That’s kind of all it takes.
I’m trying to write, though, about the students who don’t like to read, and it’s by looking at strong readers’ histories that I can see what they need: They need a community of readers. They need to see and hear other people taking joy in books. And they need lots and lots of books to read. (And this is tricky, because here’s the thing about teaching emerging readers: You’re going to lose a lot of books.)
The Kindle Classroom Project helps with all of this. The sleek black devices are visible signals that my room is filling with people who care to read, whose book choices are more or less no one else’s business, and who exert constant pressure on one another through the clandestine sharing of the scandalous or infuriating or beautiful passages they’re reading. For my Post Generation reluctant readers, a Kindle’s electronic interface offers the comfortable reassurance of a security blanket. Reading on a screen doesn’t scare them. They try it. And more and more, they’re learning to like it.
Ed. Note: Lara is a KCP teacher in Oakland.