To Foster a Love of Reading, We Have to Give Children the Freedom of Choice
It was during my son's kindergarten readiness screening that his teacher discovered his love of reading. He left her classroom that summer day with the first book of "The Magic Treehouse" series in hand. It was from her classroom library, and she said he could return it when school started. This, dear reader, is the function of a classroom library: the chance for a child to feel seen, supported and proud.
It's hard to watch what's happening in Florida right now. Teachers in Manatee County have been told to remove curated libraries from their classrooms. Children are also prohibited from bringing books from home. I try to imagine having to tell my son to leave his books at home. He carries at least one book with him everywhere, especially to school so he can read when his work is complete.
All of this restriction is a result of a Florida curriculum transparency law, HB 1467, which prohibits teachers from selecting their own books for their classroom. All classroom library books must now be cross-checked through the district librarian who has been specifically trained to vet books according to state law.
The fear -- because it always comes down to fear -- is that teachers will use their classroom library as a vehicle to indoctrinate their students in the leftist liberal agenda. Moms for Liberty call it grooming if children's books include LGBTQ characters. Race-related subjects are also worrisome to this group.
The truth is, they know knowledge is power.
At their best, classroom libraries display books on a variety of topics and genres for students to choose from. It fosters a love of reading by creating a barrier-free, accessible browsing experience for every child, one that inspires a child to discover their favorite genre and hold a book of their own choosing in their hands, every school day.
To love reading is to explore one's own interests in written form. Assignments and direction have their place. All of us have slogged through assigned texts that worked best as a sleep aid. But to foster a true love for the written word and reap the many benefits it offers, we have to give our children the freedom of choice.
If what a child chooses to read gives a parent pause, they should consider reading the book with their child and encourage questions to discuss its content. To ban anything is to make it more enticing. And if something is taboo to talk about, how will they learn? Who will they trust with those difficult conversations?
All three of my kids love to read. It's something we value as a family and something we've always done together. Not just bedtime stories or when books were assigned in class. We listen to audiobooks together on long road trips. And I've lost more sleep than I cared to staying up to shuttle my eldest to and from the theater to watch a midnight release of a movie adapted from a book she's read.
Let teachers continue to foster the love of language and literature through their classroom libraries. Give them the freedom to curate their collection according to the curriculum and according to their students' interests. We display what we value. And by all means, teachers should be able to display books.
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