Beyond Fiction: Expanding What Counts as Meaningful Student Reading

In a previous post, I talked about the importance of personally meaningful reading content. A recent conversation really solidified this concept for me. Here’s what happened:

PW-31-1.jpgI met the mom of a 13-year old boy, who complained to me about her son’s lack of interest in reading. “He simply won’t read! What do I do?” I looked over at her son who was engrossed in his phone.

However, he wasn’t playing games or watching a movie. He was reading an article about the NBA Finals. I turned to her and said, “But he’s reading right now.” Her response? “But that doesn’t count, he’s just surfing the Web. He doesn’t read books. That’s what he should be reading, right? Books? Novels?”

When did reading come to mean only reading novels, a.k.a. reading fiction? I’m not disputing the importance of reading fiction. Numerous studies show that reading fiction makes us more empathetic, better thinkers, and just overall better people.

PW-31-2.jpgHowever, why don’t we value reading non-fiction in the same way we value reading fiction? I believe that we need a more flexible interpretation of what constitutes “good reading material.” Many students simply don’t find literary fiction to be relevant to their lives. And studies have shown that students are much more likely to read and to learn from what they’re reading, when they’re personally invested in their reading and learning material.

So if students aren’t interested in fiction, why not broaden the scope of what they get to read?

The Common Core has pushed us to expose our students to more informational and non-fiction texts, and to stop relying solely on traditional literary texts. I think it’s an important first step. When we expand the scope of what’s considered “good reading material”, we increase the chances of our students encountering reading content that they actually find interesting.

PW-31-3.jpgSo back to my conversation with the parent. This is the article that the boy was reading: USA Today: LeBron James’ Legacy Fades With Each NBA Finals Loss. And as it turns out, the article:

Pretty good reading material for a 13-year old boy, wouldn’t you say?

Thoughts? Comments? Let me know @professorword!

Until next time,


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Photo Credit: Flickr user Pabak Sarkar, Kate Ter Haar, and Erik Drost


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