Celebrating the freedom for students to read

July 4, 2014

I teach reading. For a moment I would ask your readership to stop and consider how difficult it is to get children to read books. Any books. Reading is taught, tested and encouraged in public schools, but the truth is that many students choose not to read at home, and never to read for pleasure. They only casually read some things, and almost always need to be engaged in the content to continue to read.

The more they read, the stronger their skills become. That's a fact.

We teachers and librarians suggest books for summer reading routinely. We offer choices trying to appeal to all of our students. We are aware that books must engage our young readers, hook them, intrigue them and offer them insight into the world and themselves. Books contain stories that ignite interest and validate our humanity.

With this challenge comes the responsibility to offer the best and the most widely acclaimed literature that we can find as determined by experts in the field of Young Adult Literature and ourselves. I often refer to the American Library Association for recommendations. We suggest books that may resonate, validate and support students of all kinds.

Not every book will work for every child, but there are so many great writers who take on issues that concern young people as they go through adolescence that we need to point out and encourage a wide range of books for our students.

We did that recently with our Cape Henlopen Summer Reading Recommendations for students in the middle and high schools in the Cape Henlopen School District.

Experts in the field of education (language arts teachers and librarians), relying on the wisdom and research of the ALA and other learned organizations, are perfectly within our right to make decisions about book recommendations.

Parents can allow or disallow their children to read specific books on the summer reading list, but we the educators and professionals in the school system must have the right to choose books that reflect the best in literature and books that will appeal to our students.

Banned Book Week is celebrated in late September each year. We celebrate the freedom to read and to seek and express ideas. These are basic tenets of our country and our public education system. This year's celebration should remind us that even the creation of a summer reading list must reflect these freedoms.

Diane Saienni Albanese

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