Thursday, March 20, 2014

SOLC 2014 Day Twenty: Teaching kids to have opinions

"You're serious--we can abandon the book, and we won't get in trouble?"

Not a direct quote, but close enough to the comment made by one of my fifth grade Lunch Bunch book club participants back in the fall.  It was a response to my explanation that if they didn't like a book by the first 50 pages, they could abandon it.

I then went on to explain that we read books for enjoyment in this club--this was not the same as reading for an assignment for class.  I also explained that if they did abandon it, they had to come to the next meeting ready to explain why they didn't like the book; they had to have an opinion, supported by the text they read.

I believe having an opinion, critical thinking, and having a sense of wonder and questioning all go hand-in-hand.  These skills are crucial for lifelong learning, problem solving, and citizenship.  And this isn't just some pre-first cup of coffee musing this morning; discussions on these topics have been floating around my library since September.  I've been involved in similar discourse on other campuses, too.   I could write a really long treatise on the subject, and it would boil down to this:  

Kids should be curious.  Kids should not be afraid to take risks, make mistakes, and fail sometimes.  Kids should know how to rebound from failure, and sometimes the best examples should come from us, the adults in their lives--acknowledging our failures and demonstrating relearning and remediation for ourselves.  And above all, kids should know that it's okay to have an opinion, as long as it's supported by experience and researched knowledge.  Especially when it comes to books.  I let my kindergarteners give me a thumbs up or down after most read-alouds, and explain it is perfectly okay to have a thumbs down.  I tell them this quote:

"Every reader his [or her] book.  Every book its reader."--Ranganathan, The Five Laws of Library Science, 1931.  


  1. Yes, yes, yes! I get similar reactions from my 7th graders when I talk about abandoning books they don't like. Today they wrote blog posts about books they want to read, books to reread, and books not to read.

    1. Yay, Kay! I really think the key to this is getting them to articulate why they don't like the book; it really hones in on their reading preferences, which can then turn into a discussion of how to broaden them.