Top 5 Reasons to Give Students CHOICE of the Books They Read

After discussing the topic of student choice with my English class, and then piecing together what I’ve observed over the years, I’ve come up with the TOP FIVE positive outcomes that come from students having choice when it comes to reading.

 You’ll look at reading as more of a fun activity to enjoy, instead of thinking of it as an assignment. – Morgan Z.

 1. Enjoyment. This one is a no-brainer. When students have a choice in their reading, they more than likely are going to choose books that they will enjoy. This enjoyment continues on beyond that one book, as they will find a certain author or genre that they like more than others, and continue to pick up books because they KNOW they will enjoy them. It’s apparent that my own students find joy in reading because when I ask them to get out their independent novels (novels that they select), there is an audible and collective “YES” from the group. They think reading is fun. Period.

 When a teacher gives us a choice, I feel like s/he has more trust in us, as students, and that makes me enjoy the class and respect the teacher even more. – Olivia M.

 2. Respect. By allowing choice, not only will students gain a greater respect for reading, they will also gain a greater respect of you – their teacher. When we allow our students to choose their own novels, learning is placed into their hands. No longer do the students have a teacher who “forces” them to read one novel in particular. They are in control. They have choice. They can read whatever they want. And most importantly, they garner respect for you for allowing them to do so. And when students respect their teacher, they will work harder. Win-win.

 My passion for reading ever since I was little has grown with my teachers giving me choice of independent novels. While I get to learn more and expand my knowledge with reading, I’m also enjoying it and motivated to read more. – Alyssa B.

3. Motivation. What I am learning is that when students have a choice in regards to reading, they are more motivated to read even more books. That makes sense, right? This motivation factor also ties into the enjoyment factor. By giving students choice, they have the opportunity to select books that appeal most to their own interests, hobbies and tastes. Because they are reading books that appeal to these interests, the outcome is increased drive and motivation to read even more books similar to that last one. And get this… according to Guthrie and Wingfield, authors of Handbook of Reading Research, providing genuine student choices increases effort and commitment to reading. Two things that all English teachers want to see. Now, that’s awesome.

 Lets us find new books through each other. – Abby D.

 4. Collaboration.  I love when students argue. Over books, that is. Not only have my students argued over who gets to sign out my one and only copy of Divergent next, but they bicker over whether or not they found an ending of a novel/series good or bad. (Allegiant, anyone?) Because a variety of books are getting into the hands of students, there are more student recommendations floating around. This leads to novel discussion. When I have book talks in my classroom, all students are excited to hear about the latest trending books. And these book talks continue outside of the classroom, in the hallways, on the bus, over the weekend, and beyond…

 5. Life-long Love of Reading. A student of mine wrapped this one up perfectly when she wrote, “By being able to choose your own novels, you are more likely to come across a genre or author you like, which only makes you want to find similar books to continue reading in your free time.” (Alyssa B.) She certainly hit the nail on the head. Giving students choice in their reading instills a life-long love of it, and what’s better than that?

 When I asked my students what they feel the positive outcomes from having complete CHOICE regarding the books they read, I received the following responses.

(Note: many of these fit into the TOP 5 above!)

You can choose something you’re interested in, instead of being told what to read.

You connect to the story and get more into what you’re reading.  –Morgan Z.

It’s nice to have a teacher who gives you some freedom. We can look forward to class. – Carrington M.

Makes reading more fun when it feels like you’re choosing to read rather than being forced. -Abby D.

Does not seem as much like a project, but just a fun hobby. – Cole W.

Choice can guarantee that the reader will like the story. You can pick any genre, any style. Plus, there are thousands of options. –Carrington M.

I enjoy the book more. –Brad B.

Makes reading more enjoyable. – Gabby C.

Gives freedom to find our own books and develop our own favorite types. –Abby D.

I have more respect for my teacher. She doesn’t just throw a list of books at you and say, “here. Pick one.” – Maia G.


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