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Study Shows Educational & Psychological Value of Letting Children Read What They Want

NEW YORK, N.Y. (December 4, 2013) – A new book examining the nature and variety of pleasures students get from reading popular genres shows the educational benefits of and often-rigorous intellectual and psychological work involved in reading books like vampire stories, horror, fantasy, romance and dystopian fiction. 

In Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want – and Why We Should Let Them, published by Scholastic [NASDAQ: SCHL], authors Jeffrey D. Wilhelm (Boise State University) and Michael W. Smith (Temple University) present what they learned over five years of research into the pleasures that motivated the reading lives of avid adolescent readers of texts often marginalized by parents, teachers and cultural commentators. 

Might kids gravitate to the kinds of texts they need to meet specific developmental challenges at a particular point in their human development? Might passionate readers of marginalized texts—those books that many parents and teachers disapprove of at some level—be choosing books that help them build on and develop new interests, become competent in new ways, and grow beyond their current selves? These are among the questions Wilhelm and Smith answer in the book. 

In Reading Unbound, Wilhelm and Smith argue that pleasure should play a more central role in school-based reading instruction and in work done outside of schools to promote literacy and reading. They explore ways to make the various kinds of pleasure they identify more central to the work of school, and also how to build on and extend reading pleasure to meet existing curricular goals and expectations. Through the powerful voices of the teens that Wilhelm and Smith interviewed, readers discover the books, authors, genres, and topics that engage students intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally as they work to figure out who they are in the world and who they want to become. 

“At a time when the Common Core Stare Standards and high-stakes assessments turn the eyes of parents, teachers, and policy-makers to what reading can do for you, we should not lose sight of the deep and manifold pleasures it can bring to you,” Smith said. “Those pleasures are what motivate reading in the here and now and what make it likely that young people will read in the future.” 

“Never underestimate the power of pleasure in motivating and sustaining reading and improvement in reading,” Wilhelm said. “And never underestimate the deep psychological work, psychological satisfaction, and human development that is occurring for readers of freely chosen texts. Books that are often marginalized by educators or parents are often the best choice for the readers at any given point in their own human developmental journeys.” 

Published by Scholastic Teaching Resources, Reading Unbound is available for purchase in PDF format throughScholastic Teacher Express starting today, with the print edition scheduled for release in January 2014 and available for pre-order through online retailers and for educators through the Scholastic Teacher Store Online. The first 10 pages are available for FREE download through Teacher Express.


Previous titles by Wilhelm and Smith include Getting it Right and Fresh Takes on Teaching Literacy Elements.


Both authors are available for interviews. 


For more information about Scholastic, visit our online media room at http://mediaroom.scholastic.com.

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