Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kohn, A. (n.d.). How to Create Nonreaders. Alfie Kohn Homepage. Retrieved November 24, 2010, from

According Kohn: "What a teacher can do--all a teacher can do--is work with students to create a classroom culture, a climate, a curriculum that will nourish and sustain the fundamental inclinations that everyone starts out with : to make sense of oneself and the worlds, to becomes increasingly competent at tasks that are regarded as consequential, to connect with (and express oneself to) other people. Motivation--at least intrinsic motivation--is something to be supported, or if necessary revived. It's not something we can instill in students by acting on them in a certain way. You can tap their motivation, in other words, but you can't "motivate them." And if you the distinction is merely semantic then I'm afraid we disagree"(p. 1).

How I loved this article. As an "Almost-English-Teacher-Turned- Librarian," I must agree with Kohn that all teachers really can do is create the environment that condones learning and cultivates motivation, but there is no way we can actually motivate, let alone, make a child learn. In this article, Kohn gives readers a great "what NOT to do" when it comes to teaching. For example, when reading is assigned, the best way to turn once avid readers into nonreaders is to make reading a chore. Secondly, giving lists of books of what they NEED to read limits reader choice. I have been working in public libraries for four years now and it drives me nuts when children and tweens ask for their school's reading lists and/or the AR book lists. I am, and always will be against the Accelerated Reader program. First of all, the AR program assigns reading level by vocabulary without taking into account comprehension or age appropriateness. Yes, a seventh grader can read "Les Miserables," but do they understand the literacy and historical elements or the fact that Cosette is a bastard child? Probably not. Furthermore, AR becomes a competition where children read to earn prizes, which turns this leisure activity into a race and, in some cases, a requirement.

Kohn also stated that test preparation is another great way to kill motivation. Sadly, schools are fighting over money so test scores determine who should get what. With the emphasis on standardized testing, the curriculum has shifted where most are teaching to the test; pending on the teacher, and how much time they are willing to commit to making lessons that meet these standards, generic test prep becomes the norm. With all of this pressure to succeed, teachers must realize that although test scores are important, the overall learning experience is absolutely necessary. It is better that 'tweens and teens are competent than knowing how to navigate test questions (i.e., STAR 9 & SAT's). More importantly, even if teachers have to teach to a stinky test, these lessons should be fashioned in ways that stimulate rather than sedate students.

After reading this article, as a librarian to be, the same concepts need to apply to our programming. If we lead a database workshop, we need to be able to captivate our audiences so a well organized and entertaining program is necessary to keep 'tweens and teens awake. Moreover, and Kohn will agree, 'tweens and teens will probably want to know what a Boolean operator and why "and" and "not" are not what they seem in a typical good search. More importantly, and school should consider this, snacks will keep them awake since brain functions require a lot of energy. If we want DON'T want to turn our 'tweens and teens nonusers, we need to take the extra steps to make sure they are encouraged to participate and engage in programs opposed to forced.

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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