Thursday, March 16, 2017

#SOL17: Reading and Readers


Devon reading as a child.


I.

I'm reading The End of Your Life Book Club and the author, Will Schwalbe, is describing an exchange he and his mother had regarding Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach.

He writes,
...I talked about the book's fascinating and melancholy coda, which explains what will happen to each of the two main characters. On Chesil Beach had moved me so much that I didn't want to pick up a new book for awhile" (p.15).
I know just how he feels.


II.

Sometimes when I have read a really good novel--I don't want to pick up a new book for awhile, too. Sometimes it's about the ambiguity.  I need time to think. Other times, it's simply that I am not ready to push those characters who are living in my mind--out, just yet. I don't want to chance having them leave as new characters, settings, and plots from the next book show up.

I think about this desire to not read just yet and how it contrasts with the pace of school reading. There the push to read one text after the next--like eating a steady stream of after-dinner mints, is more often what gets privileged.

And that's a shame.


III.

Where do children learn that there are some books that we savor so much even after we stop reading that we need time to cleanse our pallet before partaking again? Where do children learn that we need time for the characters, the setting, plot, and ambiguities to slip from our daily thoughts?


IV.

I'm a mom. When the Common Core was first published and I read that children would be taught to read texts via the close reading approach for 13 years, I cringed. I remember saying to Rob that if this was the definition of being a proficient reader, I'd prefer Devon not be one. We also were not interested in him being 'college-ready' as determined by a 2-hour test given across three days in May.

We wanted him to savor, reject, argue with, pause, stop, reread, and determine the course of his reading, as he does his life.  We wanted him to be a thoughtful, emotional, confused, and reactionary reader.

Reading well is more about agency, than it is about genre knowledge, plot, theme and the like.


11 comments:

  1. Shout it from the rooftops, Mary Ann! As I read part II of your slice, I thought about all the times I finish a book but pick it up again to read parts of it again. That would really get me in big reader trouble in today's classroom. I'm so sick of close reading. I must ask, How do they think we read before there were highlighters, sticky notes, and consumable text to write on?

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    1. I hear you. Close reading or New Criticism as I learned it at grad school is one way to read--not the way to read. Never intended for grade school.

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  2. I love this - - > "a thoughtful, emotional, confused, and reactionary reader." Yes! Yes, yes.

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  3. "We wanted him to savor, reject, argue with, pause, stop, reread, and determine the course of his reading, as he does his life. We wanted him to be a thoughtful, emotional, confused, and reactionary reader." Yes! Isn't this what reading is all about. Engagement at the deepest level. Thank you for this!

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  4. Your post evokes a memory of a Grade 1 student I met in a school in Clinton Hill, NY. Khalil once told me. "Alan, sometimes you think you are finished with the book, but the book isn't finished with you.' Such wisdom from one so young. We often need time to ruminate. Thanks for the provocation Mary Ann.

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    1. Such wisdom in the young. Pays to listen well.

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  5. I believe in cultivating a love of reading in my classroom, testing be damned. It's he long view, and I'm sticking to it.

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    1. I certainly sensed that from your posts. It's why I sent you the ncte announcement for publishing. We need more stories and articles that show actual joy of reading.

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  6. Reading is about agency-YES. The only way we are going to develop students who are readers is if we instill a passion in them to want to devour a book, savor it, and let it be explored as they seek their identity in texts.

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