Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Feeding My Reading Life
As an educator and a life long reader I have always been interested in how and why we become readers. How do we develop into readers with rich, personal reading lives?
I find myself reflecting on those earlier years of my life and the journey I have taken to become the reader I am today. Think for a moment about your own reading experiences and see where your reflections take you. Do they inform what you do as a teacher of reading?
Thinking about my reading process helps me better understand the teachers and students I work with and provides many teachable moments to share. This reflection has helped me determine what I want students to discover about reading
I have become more acutely aware of my reading persona in recent years. I know that I read for different purposes and therefore the quality and range of my books vary greatly.
When I have extended time for reading I choose more challenging texts. The extra time enables me to savor the beauty of the author’s words, and to reread and reflect upon the more complex and challenging parts of the text. These extended reading times are usually related to holiday and vacation times or when I have extended traveling times. On these occasions, I love to read biographies and travel books. Shorter travel times mean that I often choose shorter magazine type articles that fit the duration of the travel.
I am a voracious reader of professional books, magazines and related articles. Some I skim read, others require repeated re-readings and note taking. Sometimes these professional articles are read online. They almost always involve reflection.
I also have a stack of books that I ‘intend’ to read that either sit on my desk or are stacked on a shelf in my study. These are the books that I purchase on recommendation from colleagues and friends, reading reviews and my bookstore browsing excursions.
I read when seated comfortably on the couch or close to a window that provides supportive light for my reading experience. I used to like to lie on my bed and read, but as I get older, I find I am more inclined to fall asleep if I start reading in this position. The critical thing for me is to feel relaxed. I do not enjoy it when the reading gets too difficult or my concentration wanders and the meaning breaks down. If I find that I am not enjoying a particular book, I persist, but if my attitude doesn’t improve over time, I am prepared to abandon the book and choose something else to meets my needs as a reader. I need to find just right books.
As I read I find myself constantly visualizing the events taking place. I imagine characters operating in the real world and the relationships they share. I imagine being in the world of the character. There are often conversations occurring silently in my head as I read. I reflect on character’s decisions, I make predictions at all stages of my reading. These predictions are confirmed or altered according to what my reading reveals.
When I come across unfamiliar words in my reading I use context clues to figure out the meaning. I rarely stop and look in a dictionary at that point. I may check in a dictionary after I have finished the reading to confirm the meaning I have developed.
When I find myself zoning out, I go back and reread that part of the text that has slipped past me. Sometimes I reread a passage that has particularly grabbed my attention. I imagine how the author came to construct that part of the text in such a unique and interesting way. I marvel over words that sparkle and jump from the page. Great language that crackles and sparks on the page is a cause for celebration. I love the quirky ways that authors sometimes construct language.
As my life as a reader continues I marvel at the magic those twenty six letters of the alphabet are able to conjure up. To think that those symbols can be put together in an infinite numbers of ways for readers to experience the joy of knowing, is quite miraculous
I love to discuss and share my reading with others. If I’ve really enjoyed a book I can’t wait to share my experience with someone. It’s even better when that person has also read the book that has provided that special buzz.