#SOL21: Read for Fun

This post has been in my drafts for over a month. I’ve come back to it nine times (at least) according the revisions. I’m flummoxed.Then I’m angry. Frustrated. Disgusted.

“They can read for fun when their work is done.”

(Equity: Does everyone get time when they are done?)

“They can read for fun at home.”

(Equity: Do they have time at home? Access: Do they have books at home?)

“They can make the time if they really want to read.”

(Equity: Daily schedules are busy. If it’s valued as a necessity, why would there NOT be school time allocated for reading so scores go up?)

My emotions are my responsibility. Am I over reacting? Consider a different scenario . . .


Point of view: the high school basketball coach. We’re in the midst of games right now. That means that the kids have games two nights a week and practices on three days. On the surface, that sounds easy to allocate time. 2 nights = 40% of the time for games; 3 days of practice = 60% of the time.

But when I dig in a little deeper, the surface data doesn’t hold up. Let’s begin with games.

Some kids sit on the bench most of the games, so they have 0 playing time and may only be getting practice in holding the bench down. They may be learning from the play around them, but without specific feedback and/or playing time, their skills will not progress at the same rate as the players. Will their skills even maintain? (I continue to think about the effect for the unengaged, inactive players who sit on the bench.)

And then practices. That initial 60% of the time.

What does this consist of? How much time is spent in individual drills? How much time is spent in team drills? How much time is spent on scrimmages where players actually practice for game simulations? So many questions. Not so many answers! If half the time is drills and skills and the other half is scrimmage and real practice, then all players can be engaged and active for that time.

I have to add more math to this to make sense. Here’s my projection for a starting varsity player. (I made up the 2 hours for each day for a starting point.)

skills 1 hr.2 hours playingskills 1 hr.skills 1 hr.2 hours playing
scrimmage 1 hr.scrimmage 1 hr.scrimmage 1 hr.
playing 1playing 2playing 1playing 1playing 2
Projected time allocation for starting varsity basketball player

In this hypothetical 2 hours per day, the starting player has 7 hours of playing time or 70% and 3 hours of skills or 30%. The likelihood that this player is also spending their own time practicing is high. Motivation is high. Energy is high. Expectations are high! Keeping a “starting spot” is a high priority!

So this model is a rough model. #1) No game lasts 120 minutes. And yet in real time it certainly can. The starting player with their body in the game also has the mental mindset going during warm ups, game time, free throw shots, time outs, bench time, half time, etc. It’s a continuous loop. And the bench warmer person does get to shoot and run during pre-game warm ups and half- time warm up. That 10 minutes times two minus drill team performances and announcements equals maybe 15 minutes in comparison to the 120 + minutes for the starting players.

Let’s consider that a bit more. The non-starting, “put me in, please, coach!” player. What might that look like?

skills 1 hr.15 min. practiceskills 1 hr.skills 1 hr.15 min. practice
scrimmage 1 hr.0 playingscrimmage 1 hr.scrimmage 1 hr.0 playing
playing 1playing 0playing 1playing 1playing 0
Projected time allocation for bench-sitting varsity player

What opportunity does this player have to improve “playability” in order to move off the bench? Barring injuries, what is the likelihood that a player moves from bench-sitting to playing? Now out of 10 hours at work the player gets 3 hours for actually playing OUT OF 10 total for 30% playing and 35%+ practicing.

These numbers were just to make the issues more visible. They aren’t based on observation. They are “rounded off guesstimates.” What attributes does a player need in order to move from a player with minimal playing time to one with maximum playing time? Accuracy in shooting – free throws, 2 pointers, and 3 pointers. Ball handling – ability to inbound the ball and dribble down court. Ability to defend…

I did throw in jv games to consider another middle of the road option but that became even more convoluted. If jv games are on the same nights as varsity games, playing time might increase. If jv games are on different nights, playing time may increase for the top half of the team (remember they will then lose out on practice and scrimmage time on those practice days) so 50% might be playing time and 20% skills or practice time.

And then I thought about “learning something new:” How much time? What would be the balance of skills and transfer or even automaticity? And the rabbit hole I was in just kept getting bigger until there was a whole burrow of holes zigzagging underground.

Why does this matter?


It’s important.

It’s a gateway to many occupations and often considered necessary for success in life.

Broader … literacy.

Reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking.

Literacy … what’s the difference between the game and practice? Many students have intensive practice with sounds and words. Is that the practice? When do they ever get to the game.

But the reality is that reading for fun is often not allowed at school. Students are given little or no choice in what they are to read as well as oftentimes, little time to read at all at school. Some experts suggest that the easiest way to “close gaps” is to provide scaffolds so students have more access to grade level texts during school hours.

Social media contains complaints about “practice time/ homework” and the debilitating effect for many students who don’t have access to the resources they need.

Does anyone get enough practice time? If coaches don’t feel that two hours/ per day are inadequate for a sport, then how can 45 minutes be enough time for reading every day. And let’s face it, all our kids deserve opportunities for reading at school, at home, and for the rest of their lives.

And then I circle back to that “A” student who failed the standardized test that measured school success. His reply to “Tell me what’s going on” was that the “remedial” course for students not successful on the test was the ONLY course in the entire school where students had any choice in what they read.

What are you thinking?


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum.

Check out the writers and readers here.

Screenshot 2019-01-29 at 3.12.16 AM.png

10 responses

  1. You’ve given us a lot to think about here, Fran. Delving into the basketball scenario, you raise some great questions. I see a lot of bench players in my line of work (PE), and what’s interesting there and with other sports is that as choice activities, they hold a degree of interest and investment from players along the whole spectrum of ability levels. Whenever I leave my gym for a break, HS students will get in some shooting and play time with friends for as long as possible. It’s social time, it’s a stress relief, and a bit of informal skill practice. Basketball becomes a key vehicle for belonging among a group of young people.

    What changes for reading is that for many children at school it can become a chore, or a badge of disappointment, a source of discouragement or a thing they love but aren’t allowed to do nearly as much of as they would like. Reading as school is too often someone else’s choice, judgment, and/or requirement. It also reflects how we’ve been made to focus on literacy as tied to a school’s survival and autonomy. Test scores! Achievement gaps! The pressure on reading as performance of worthiness for funding becomes the perverse trap in which many educators and school systems find themselves in.
    That’s what spontaneously comes to mind but there’s certainly much more to contemplate and consider. Thank you for your thoughtful analysis.

    1. I vote for all activities that promote a sense of belonging/building communities. I wish for all students to have those choices. Some are limited by facilities. Locked gyms when there is no supervision. Some are limited by team rosters. The number of players on a team.

      Reading as performance for for funding is a problem. I hate school rankings on achievement tests. I can predict scores from free and reduced lunch numbers. In any other profession that inappropriate use of a test would be a warning for malpractice.

  2. There are so many questions here. If practice makes perfect then why aren’t students given ample opportunities to “practice” reading for enjoyment? If they are only given the time to do assigned readings how will their love of reading grow? If students don’t see teachers reading how can they assume there is any value or importance placed on reading?

  3. Fran,
    Thanks for giving me LOTS to think about. I love the comparison to B-ball, too. Your charts helped me understand your thinking better. I may not post again in Dec. Merry Christmas, a little early! I wish you a peaceful holiday season!! And fingers crossed that maybe we can cross paths in-person in 2022!

    1. Happy Holidays and safe travels to you

  4. Oh wow! I wish you could have been with me in my independent reading session this week! This is exactly what we were taking about! Thanks for sharing. I’m sorry you were flummoxed, angry…but I’m happy you’re here to support readers!

    Jennifer Sniadecki

  5. The numbers tell the story here… thank you for sharing this. I think choice reading is so very important!

    1. Choice reading fuels readers hearts, minds, and souls!

  6. I left this open in my inbox for such a day as this – my first day of winter break. I love the analogy you used here – Thinking of “play” vs “practice” and what we consider to be valuable about each…so important! Time and choice are essential; add in intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation and the equations/math get even more complicated. Thanks for sharing part of your writing process as well. I have about 4 “drafts” of thoughts in my writing file and haven’t “published” in months. Time will tell if they see the light of day, but your follow through here has encouraged me to go for it!

    1. Tim,
      I have three other drafts “in waiting” to be a new post or even just to spark another idea or to lure me into stealing a paragraph. So many ways to think and draft…
      From any device

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