For those of you fortunate enough not to know what this is, it's a reading campaign started in the US many years back in which children set a goal to read so many words and then try to reach or surpass that goal. There is a complex formula for figuring out how many words are in a book--or there's even a website which will give you the word count.
I protested when the idea was introduced at our school, but was told, 'We're just are trying to find a way to encourage children to read." A noble goal. Still I had my doubts which were confirmed when--more than a few times--I saw my daughter looking through her bookshelf, picking out books and dismissing them NOT because of theme or content or even an ugly jacket cover, but because "they don't have enough words."
Trying to keep an open mind about this campaign, I went looking for research which proves the Million Word Reader encourages reading. I mean after all these years there should be some kind of study. I couldn't find anything other than enthusiastic sites which suggested how your school might advertise the campaign through posters, competitions, award nights. I kept thinking, "What are we doing to this younger generation?"
This ridiculous campaign which has swept the nation strikes me as the Cultural Revolution of Literature. In fact, I can see down the line books with few words being burned as “useless," poetry being banned altogether, Descartes philosophy "I think therefore I am." reduced to a mere five words--or by then it might be considered 18 letters--still not enough for a medal. And all the while we sit there clapping.
Am I just being a fuddy-duddy unable to grasp a new teaching method? Does anyone know of research showing that advertising word count is a better way to get kids to read? If not, does anyone have thoughts on how to combat this disaster?
Book of the Week:
After the Workshop
by John McNally is a novel about a man who joined the highly revered Iowa Writer's Workshop and then stagnated, in the meantime becoming a media escort. It's fun and funny.