I got a bit furious and annoyed this morning when I read some explanations about an activity for accelerating the habit of reading with young people, which seems to be getting popular among schools in Japan. Do you have any idea what it is? It's called Bibliobattle. I have to say sorry again to you readers in advance that I'm sure to ramble a lot now, but I just can't understand why the number of schools and teachers that are so easily attracted to such a half-baked idea is increasing....
There are several things I feel the activity terribly strange; the name with a word, battle, in it, the reason why you have to do it like a sport and choose a champion, and the message, 普段からビブリオバトルを意識した読み方をしよう, which might work against encouraging students to gain a habit of pleasure reading.
First the name bibliobattle. Am I the only one who feel something is totally off and outrageous to call sort of a method of reading as a battle. The impression I have from a word battle is quite striking and intense that I can't let go of the images of battlefields or people kicking and hitting each other. Reading is an act of being quiet, personal, and thoughtful that I don't think the two words reading and battle go peacefully hand in hand.
Next is the purpose of making an reading activity as a sport. I think it's a great idea for students to have a chance to recommend their favorite books to others. The feverish presentation of classmates appealing their best books would kindle the heart of reluctant readers and also they'd have a great chance to get to know each other well and personally through the talks, so I'm for the idea of giving a presentation. But why do we always have to choose a champion and make it like a sport? What exactly the purpose of this activity; is it for becoming a good presenter or to find the joy of pleasure reading?
The last but not least is the message in the guideline; whenever you read books, do it for bibliobattle. Huh? Where is the joy of reading if you have to read books all the time remembering the day you do a presentation about it? Can you dip yourself in the story and lose your mind in it when you have to remember the details for the presentation? I'm afraid there is a big pitfall in this activity, just like the things Eigo education has been doing, which might engrave a bad habit of learning in the minds of Japanese young people.
Japanese are made to believe at school that we have to study very hard to be a competent user of English and students try to study and memorize everything whenever they do something in English. They sometimes read stories in English, but since they believe they have to learn while they're reading, they just can't experience the feel of being absorbed in the story or talking to the imaginary protagonists or the author. Reading is fun because you can read without any concerns. Then, can you really enjoy the story when your mind is constantly wondering how you can learn effectively or quickly from reading? Bibliobatle might end up enhancing the idea that reading is thoroughly for learning, but not for pleasure.
I often wonder and many times am disappointed to know the people engaged in the big part of education in Japan can be so shallow and boring. Bibliobatle is good for a recreation or the purpose of learning to give a persuasive presentation. But can't you imagine what happens when such an intensive activity is practiced at school? It has to be boring and just a mundane activity that students have to tackle to get good scores regardless of their willingness.
There are tons of other things schools and teachers can do to encourage student to read more books. By far the most effective and easy thing is for teachers to read books in front to the students. Why don't you spend for twenty or thirty minutes every day for reading with students in the classroom? Shall I help you to arrange a library in your class? If you're a teacher, bring one book every Monday to the class and tell students how much you enjoyed reading it and share the joy of reading. And if you're an English teacher, please do read aloud picturebooks or stories, instead of doing meaningless bingo or something. Please fill the heart of youngesters with the story of your own reading!
(To make it short; isn't it kind of unhealthy and alarming when you can't enjoy anything unless it's a race? 競わないと楽しめないって、とてもオカシイと思う。)