Penny Kittle walks the walk. Not only does she spread a love of reading in her classrooms, she lets books invade her life outside the classroom as well. Whether it’s on a family trip to the British Isles or in an airport, waiting for a flight, Penny can be found reading. She knows that good reading teachers–even at the high school level–must read lots of books if they are to recommend them to their students. Let that sink in. If you are a high school English teacher like me, think: how many of your colleagues are voracious readers?
In Book Love, Kittle explains her rationale for the reading program she has developed for her high school English classroom. She defends her choices to prepare her students for college with young adult literature in the face of Common Core standards. She shares success stories about students, and shares tips on challenging her students to become deeper, more sophisticated readers likes using goals, reflections, conferences, and close readings. Her love for her students, for reading, and for the English teacher professional is infectious, and I found myself cheering her along.
“A book isn’t rigorous if students aren’t reading it.” (xvi)
“Voluminous, voracious readers are our only hope.” (23)
“This is the calling of an English teacher for me: give each student books that teach them, challenge them, and lead them to places they’ll never know otherwise” (44).
“People will tell you there is no time for fun in today’s classroom. They will say that very seriously. Don’t buy it.” (73)
“We can’t teach something we don’t practice.” (158)
Only a few times did this book not work for me. Kittle uses different castle doors as metaphors for different book genres in Chapter 4, which was a little too cutesy. Also, a few times in the book, she mentioned different items (book lists, for example) were available on her website. Why not just make them available in the book? Or if that’s not possible, include a QR code to quickly leap to the website! The cool-sounding literature map on page 122 is not described in detail, and no picture of it is included in the book or online. Finally, Kittle’s example of a book talk on pages 61-62 was for Why We Broke Up, one of my least favorite YA books in recent memory, and Kittle seems to adore it. Of course, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but her positive review of WWBU kind of bothered me.
Overall, though, this is a tremendous book on making reading real in the high school English classroom. I will return to it throughout my career. Thanks, Penny. I felt the love.