Monday, March 5, 2012

Is reading good homework?

I am a strong advocate for rethinking homework. I would go so far as to say that most homework assignments are not worth the teacher's or student's time or effort. A lot of homework is busy work.

Upon saying this, I've often been confronted with a very good question: is reading good homework?

It depends. I see homework as something to be inspired not assigned.

Whatever we ask children to do, be it at school or not, we must first ask "how will this affect this child's desire to go on learning?"

The child who can read but chooses not to holds no advantage over the child who can't read.

To stave off the development of a generation of alliterates (those who can read but largely choose not to) we need to care about whether children want to read at least as much as whether they can.

It's not good enough to simply say we will make kids read at home. We have to ensure they like it.


  1. Reading isn't work. I think that's the critical aspect people miss. If it is assigned, you've taken a fun, challenging, intrinsically motivating activity and made it work. My son loves to read. Would he love to read as much if he had to fill out a reading log?

    There are times when my students do homework: blog comments, additional writing, community surveys, write-ups on movies, propaganda analyses on the news, show-and-tell items, interviews for documentaries. But in each case, it is voluntary. Always. They do it, despite the fact that there is no credit or extra credit involved. It's an extension activity.

  2. My name is Allison Cullars and I am in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. I agree that before we assign homework, we need to ask ourselves "how will this effect this child's desire to go on learning?" I believe reading to some extent is just busywork. We have to make sure the students like to read. Children are not going to read if they are not interested in the subject matter. Reading is not fun for everyone. Also, some children read but do not understand the subject matter, so it is like they didn't read anything at all. I like the phrase "we need to care about whether children want to read at least as much as whether they can." We need to make sure children want to learn and advance in their intellectual skills. Teachers need to motivate their students to learn. This was an interesting and great post.

  3. Jennifer Marten tweeted this to me today in response to this:

    Reading as homework annoys good readers and makes liars out of the ones that struggle.

  4. I agree with what John said, that when reading is assigned, it is no fun. My oldest loves to read but hated his reading homework last year and quickly became disinterested in reading. My middle child is a struggling reader and had no interest in reading a photocopied book that he didn't pick himself and that was usually too hard for him.

    As I've said several times on the comments of this blog, my kids go to a school with no homework but can bring books home from their book bins that are at their level if they want to. My oldest brings no books home but has read over 2000 pages this month from the books he's picked out of the library. My middle child brings a book home every week and reads it to me every day that week. He loves bringing home a new challenging book and pushing himself.

    If I had kept him at the same school I fear that my oldest would have fallen out of love with reading my middle child never would have pushed himself to be better.

  5. I think it depends on every individual how he takes reading as homework some might absolutely love it while others inspite of loving to read dont like it as a homework and it can be in case of any type of activity when given as homework. So basically teachers should try to make this home activity interesting.

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  6. I like the general direction of your idea, but I would argue that it is ok for a teacher to assign reading without having inspired each and every student to do so (as I often do). Consider a runner's story. Often times they become runners, not because they love it, but because they know there will be a reward in the end (better health, strength, improved attitude, agility, new friendships). In this way, our students/readers should find motivation to read for many DIFFERENT reasons contrast to a teacher attempting to find that ONE reason to hook before an assignment. If I didn't inspire my student by chance to read last night's assignment (tied to content and with purpose) ...does this mean they shouldn't have to do it? ...if my fitness coach (don't worry, I don't have one!) doesn't inspire me, should I not be responsible for my own health? (I've been told I'm a scatter brain...sorry if my reasoning is all over the place!)


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