“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” Mark Twain
You may remember it by another name; Drop Everything and Read, or Sustained Silent Reading perhaps. It may have come at a different time of the week for you. For me, Free-Reading Friday was the best part of the school week.
At the end of the week, after lessons had been learned and homework checked, the teacher would say, “O.K., boys and girls. You may read anything you wish for the next 30 minutes.” I eagerly looked forward to that delectable half hour. I would lose myself in whatever book I was reading. I traveled to faraway places, met famous people, and learned about different cultures. I commiserated with a main character over a dilemma we had in common. I sympathized with characters when they faced obstacles I had not yet known existed in the world.
When I became a teacher I learned that my teachers had probably had an ulterior motive for letting us read. They needed time. Time to catch up. Time to help struggling students. Time to sit at their desks to rest their voices and feet. But they also must have realized the importance of giving students time to read. They could easily have assigned busy work instead, but they chose to have us read.
Free-Reading Fridays were joyful times for me, both as a student and as a teacher. The joy I experienced as a student was my own. That which I experienced as a teacher was shared. It was a time during which I could connect with students as we visited over whatever they were reading.
Of course, there were those students who did their best to get out of going anywhere near a book, but they were a minority. I let them read magazines with lots of pictures in them. The magazine articles became springboards for discussion.
As the years went by, it became increasingly difficult to allow for free reading time. Shortened class time, interruptions, the ever-growing list of struggling students, and politics over how the curriculum was taught let to diminishing “free” time in the classroom. At the high school where I taught before retiring, I may have been the last holdout for scheduling free reading time for students.
The demise of Free-Reading Friday makes me sad. Reading is important. It needs to be a joyful activity, not just an item on a skills list to be checked off when learned. Without that joy, people will not read. If they don’t read, they will not learn. If they don’t learn, well…they will remain ignorant.
With that joy in mind, I am launching my “Free-Reading Friday” feature, which will address all things reading: book reviews, quotes, information and opinions. Check it out. I hope you enjoy what you find.