Do you need to read the whole book?

In a recent Guardian Secret Teacher, a teacher commented on the fact that teachers aren’t reading, so we can not therefore assume students will. 

In this article, the teacher raised the fact that, when teaching a book for English Literature, most teachers give students extracts, and, even, that most teachers also only read the extracts. These are the extracts that are deemed most important parts for exam analysis. 

But is that teaching the book? I agree with the time limits – they’re tight. I also believe that, without the whole book, students don’t have the whole picture. A novel is a complete piece of work, and asking a student to comment on a character’s journey throughout a whole book by giving them ten extracts is akin to asking someone to comment on an artist’s use of colour by giving them the bottom corner of a painting.

What I also find problematic is that this article suggests that there is a common belief that reading the whole book as a class would only be useful for one thing – for the study of that work of literature. I wonder, then, why the benefits of group reading, of vocabulary building, of comprehension and inference learning opportunities are dismissed so easily. 

I’ve said before that you can have literacy without literature, and I still believe this.

But can you have literature without literacy?

Read the whole book. It will be worth the time.

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