This week, each of my classes read for ten minutes. During this time, you could hear a pin drop in the classroom as each child was engaged in an independent reading book of their choice. I was actually shocked that this level of quiet could be achieved so uniformly in class after class of wiggly teenagers. Based on my experience with my juniors in the library (remember the herding cats comparison?) I expected to be shushing and redirecting, begging and pleading with kids to pay attention to their books. But, I didn’t have to. Not once.
The only conversation that I had to have was with the student who had chosen the 10 thinnest books the library had to offer on the day we explored the stacks. It had taken him only three days (so approximately 30 minutes of reading) to determine that the first slim novel he had chosen was not working out. We had a wonderfully brief talk about why the book wasn’t a good fit and why this had happened. He was quick to admit the faults in his book selection process in the library and asked for some suggestions to replace his current text.
I offered him five or six books of varying lengths. At the end of class, he had decided upon Cormac McCarthy’s The Road – a far cry from the simple, short texts he had originally logged on his “To Be Read List.” I’m glad that he chose not to waste his energy muscling through the other books and that it had taken him such a short amount of time to determine this.
Sometimes the best learning curves are the steepest.