Yesterday I got to meet, talk with, present ideas to about 400 middle school students at Davs Drive school in NC, and I am writing this from the library of Mills Park, where I will again meet about 400 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. What I see so far is that both the kids and the teachers start from a rather typical split — fiction over NF, with a scattering of (mainly) boy readers who read only NF. And in talking with the teachers and librarians, I see the key issue that I knew would be lurking — they themselves may not have had good history, science, or math teachers — nor have they since read books in these areas that they loved. So the mandate to treat NF as a Language Art does not match anything in their own adult reading or learning experience. But the other thing I see in the students and teachers is true excitement — once they begin to see how interesting, well, everything, is, and how NF is about inquiry not memorization — you see the world spinning in front of you.
My sense is that as districts deal with the CC shift, they need to have professional development that begins with the simple question of what the pleasures of NF might be — establish pleasure — then link that to all of the kinds of reading skills the CC mandates: compare and contrast, find the structure of the book, identify the argument and how it is made, etc. Those are all teaching skills that are not hard to master. But they need to be grounded in a sense of what NF offers — that the book are not a loss imposed by yet another mandate from on high, but rather a new opening, a new chance to open eyes and enjoy reading.
On a totally different note, can’t help including a link to a wonderful article my friend Ruth Pennebaker published in the Times today about walking in the city and its memories with me: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/04/nyregion/seeing-new-york-citys-changes-with-a-native.html?_r=1