Click here to link back to my blogs which were written during my field experience in Morocco. Feel free to keep reading and discover pieces on other education policy issues and experiences.
Before I left for Morocco I developed a research question to help guide my studies while abroad. As someone who is passionate about reading and teaching students to love reading, I wanted to explore how this is done in Morocco. How do teachers foster a love of reading in their students? At my first school visit, I asked about what books students were reading for pleasure. The concept was unknown. In Morocco, students spend all of their time studying for their baccalaureate exams, which will determine their path in life. In the schools we visited, students did not read literature. They studied in their subject areas, but were not interested in fiction or nonfiction just for fun.
I thought about the cause of this - the high stakes exam that determines their future, and understand how an entire culture can move away from reading. After speaking with a couple of adults, even they did not really read for pleasure. The Moroccan people are a social bunch, and my impression is they place a high value on face to face interaction and quality time with friends and family.
Reading is something that has high value in American culture. Pediatricians advise parents to begin reading to their children the moment they are born. Even the most progressive schools who have abandoned homework at lower grade levels still require families to read together each night. It is interesting that as a society we place so much weight on research-based recommendations, while the Moroccan people hold to their social values.
I hope that our intense focus on standardized tests doesn't lead us down a similar path. As it is, I often hear from teachers who have to forgo choice reading and high-interest literature due to district mandates tied to testing. For me, my trip reinforced my belief that a love of reading is the most powerful gift I can give to my students. And so I go forth, trying to snag as many middle schoolers as I can on my ever-evolving literary journey.