As an educator, I now know that reading is thinking, and it has little to do with reading levels, reading roles, and packets to complete. As students are learning to read, these things have their place. But in order to get students to think, they have to be interested enough in what they are reading to actually finish, and to then engage in discussion about what they read.
This is precisely why reading picture books with fifth graders is so important. The words are easy enough so that the focus can be on the thinking process and how to analyze a piece of text. We can discuss theme, character development, pacing, and voice. I discovered the power of wordless picture books last year, which open up a whole new world of analysis.
Yet students can have that same feeling with a novel of their choosing. Again, they just need a little guidance. For the last few years, I have been building on my classroom library, and since I read most of the books, I can usually steer a student to some books, authors, or a genre they would enjoy. And that is where the fun begins. If we can get kids to see the beauty of reading, then we will be "growing readers" as Donalyn Miller of The Book Whisperer fame has shown us.