Saturday, November 3, 2012
I spent several hours this afternoon in the reading zone, that place in which my mind is completely immersed in the text of whatever book is in my hands. For most people, getting to the reading zone requires a few important things: a quiet place to read, time set aside for reading, and a book (or books) to captivate and engage the reader. Nancie Atwell writes about the reading zone in her 2007 book of the same title. It is the subtitle I most appreciate: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers.
I never could teach from a textbook. The mind-numbing questions were so contrary to the authentic discussions with others I appreciated that involved our reasons for reading books and why we would recommend the books to others. I never believed I could "teach" a novel or a story. I could teach students about various things as we all read, but my own interpretations and reactions would most certainly not be the only ways of thinking about a text. I raised three incredible male readers without the help of strategies and explicit instruction. Instead, I read aloud to them daily, talked about my own reading (as has their father), provided books and ideas for books, and talked with them about their own reading habits and preferences. According to Atwell, the busywork of common reading instruction is what kills the joy of reading for most readers.
I do not know an adult reader who feels satisfaction after completing a study guide in connection with a book (nor from finishing a book report, journal entry, or other artificial response assignment). Adults talk about books with each other. They choose books based on what other readers share with them. They enter the reading zone for enjoyment. Yet the majority of teachers do not provide time for students to enter the reading zone, thinking explicit instruction and methods that detract from the reading experience are necessary for comprehension and reading growth.
My role as a librarian and a reading specialist is to read reviews of books, stock the library shelves with quality books, and talk about those books with readers to increase the chances they will enter the reading zone every day. I need to know what the readers like, what they have enjoyed in the past, and ascertain what might appeal to them now. I need to "teach reading so that readers feel the enthusiasm of a trusted adult when we communicate to them one-to-one about literature - so they get that the teacher loves books, and that our advice about reading them is trustworthy." (p.93)