Why Book Reports Won't Encourage Reading Habit
Wednesday, March 8, 2023
Written by Elizabeth Hanson
What is the key to excellence in learning? It is the ability to enjoy reading and to read well.
But here's the crux of the matter: Children go to school to learn how to read, but they don’t discover the love of reading. To be frank, we get just about everything wrong when we teach schoolchildren how to read.
One of the mistakes we make is to insist that elementary-grade students write book reports. What child wants to write a book report?! And that’s the problem. The child learns to associate a negative learning experience, such as writing a book report, with reading. When we have a negative experience, we want to avoid having the experience again. Children learn to associate the negative experience of writing a book report with reading, and, therefore, they’d rather not read.
Can you blame them?
Look at this real life sample of questions an elementary-grade child might be expected to answer:
- Do you like the book? Why so?
- Can you come up with another title?
- What is the setting/background information?
- Who are the main characters?
- Who was your favorite character, and why?
- How does the story start?
- What is the story's plot?
I think we both can agree that most, if not all, children would avoid answering said list of questions when given the choice.
Some Considerations to Ponder
Why frustrate a child in the name of reading by demanding that he writes a sentence or two explaining why he likes or doesn’t like the book? How will this encourage a love of reading? Can’t he just like or not like the book?
Suggesting he come up with an alternative title makes no sense at all. What is the purpose? If it is is an exercise in creativity, there are far more effective ways to foster creativity in a child than sitting in a classroom writing alternative titles for books they didn’t write.
We could go down the list of questions, but why bother?
In a nutshell, book reports are merely busy work for schoolchildren that create a negative association with reading. Let me ask you this: wouldn’t a free-flowing conversation be a better way to engage a child than to ask him to write a book report?
The Heart of the Matter
We fail to teach children how to love reading because we turn it into a chore before a child can learn to enjoy it. The point in the elementary years should not be to teach a child how to analyze a book, but the aim should be to encourage a child to love reading a book.
Instead of book reports, let your child read for the enjoyment of reading. When he's older and ready for thinking more deeply about a book, you can have him write essays about the books he's read.
Until then, supply him with quality books and let him enjoy reading to his heart’s content.
No book reports allowed!
Elizbeth Y. Hansen
Certified Leadership Parent Coach