About half of my students come to me as "readers", those who carry books with them through their daily lives, visit libraries, and escape into reading before bed. Many of them come to me as former "readers", those who enjoyed books as littles, but lost the bug once reading for recreation became more challenging than TV watching, video game playing, or just living out an overpacked schedule. 5 weeks into the school year the majority of my students are playing the part of "reader", choosing books that motivate them, reading every night, and writing and talking about that reading in and out of the classroom. They have wide and varied reading tastes, but for the most part they have one thing in common. They are lovers of stories. Most of them read fantasy fiction as their preferred genre, and when asked why they think fantasy is so popular, many write wistfully about loving to escape into impossible worlds. It is impossible to not encourage this love fest my students are having with reading.
A few years ago, this would have been an amazing testament to my teaching superpower, but in the past few years my job description has changed. I have been told quite clearly that these beloved stories (or "narratives" to use the domain specific vocabulary) must only be 1/3 of the puzzle. I am told that I must find an authentic and true balance between stories and more academic reading pursuits, as if stories are non-academic. While I understand the motivation behind the CCSS, and feel myself being pulled by the challenge of finding great informational and argumentative texts to support my teaching in an authentic way, I can not let go of the fact that I teach an English class, the one place where students have traditionally been encouraged to focus on narratives. The rule follower in me feels guilt that I have yet to be able to balance these three types of reading. In my classroom the narrative is still king because my students still revere it, and the fact that I am supposed to discourage that makes me resentful.
Putting aside motivation, and the dearth of high quality informative or argumentative text available for adolescents, there is the simple factor of time to consider. I see my students for 40 minutes a day. That works out to 72 hours a year. In Readicide, Kelly Gallagher shares a frightening statistic that the average 15-24 year old does 7 minutes of recreational reading. If you do that math that works out to 114 hours a year that have the potential to be filled with ANY reading, let alone a healthy mix of reading. When put through that lens one can see that we are fighting a losing battle with reading, a battle that I am trying to fight with any weapon I have. For now, the weapon of choice is stories, and I am not going to feel guilt over that.