First of all, let me just say that I love graphic novels. This year, the books of Kazu Kibuishi, Ben Hatke, Michael Rex, and Raina Telgemeier have been hugely popular with my fourth graders. As is to be expected--they are gorgeous, well-written, and totally engaging. I have encouraged students to make graphic novels a part of their reading experience, and allowed independent reading time in my classroom to be pretty free and open to most books (with the exception of Garfield and World Records books--arrghh.)
However, as I fielded requests for the missing copy of Amulet 3 and watched students flit restlessly as they waited, I started to think about what kids haven't read this year. The list was alarming. No one has picked up the Dragon Shoes series by Jessica Day George. A few students read Frindle, at my suggestion, but never moved on to the other Andrew Clements books. The series Among the Hidden, which has been a perennial favorite of fourth grade, was virtually untouched.
So I did it. I said, "Between now and May 18 you must all read one chapter book, approved by me. Not a graphic novel."
I expected resistance. I expected sulking. I expected anything except what I got.
Because what I got was--total acceptance. "Can you help me find a chapter book?" one student asked.
In two weeks the reading of the classroom changed. I have students on the fourth book of the Among the Hidden series. The One and Only Ivan has changed hands twice. Students have brought in their own books, from home or from the library, books that they have had and have been planning to read but never did. Kids who thought that books with no pictures were too hard for them or no fun are liking what they find.
And they are still reading graphic novels, only now they are using them at extra times throughout the day--before school, in between classes, whenever they have an extra minute. In fact, my decree seems to have only increased demand for graphic novels.
I love the surprises in teaching. In this case, a restriction led to more reading. Instead of feeling deprived, my students seemed to thrive. Would this have happened at the beginning of the year? I don't think so. I think that the experiences students had with graphic novels have gotten them ready for reading all of these other books. They just needed my nudge to get them there!
Have you ever done something like this--something that surprised you? What were the results?