I find myself drawn into the sci-fi dystopian novel genre. I can't seem to escape from it. So I guess I'll just let it hook me for a while. After reading Across the Universe by Beth Revis, I was excited to find several other novels on her website written in the same spirit of her writing. My most recent guilty pleasure, Legend by Marie Lu.
As a reader, I love to hold a book. The smell of the pages intoxicates me. Just visiting a bookstore to experience the waft of newsprint at the door gets me fired up about reading. So, I have been very careful about balancing the amount of books I read on my ipad with purchasing the real deal.
I don't consider myself a naturally gifted learner. I got B's and C's in school. I was jealous of my friends who graduated summa cum laude. Lately, my teacher-student self has been sneaking into my unconscious as I try to help my students do more written reflection about their reading in an attempt to train their brain to do this more as they read. I try to serve those students who think differently than the traditional school kid. So what I am doing sounds simple enough - engage students in talking and writing about their reading to help them think more deeply about reading. But, I was never taught to do this as a reader. It wasn't until graduate school when I discovered Mosaic of Thought by Ellin Oliver Keene, did I learn how to think about reading in an authentic, meaningful way. This book taught me how to engage with text.
As a teacher of thinkers, I am curious about how the potential of the latest reading apps (Google Books, Kindle, Nook, and iBooks) might support or build barriers for future readers. I know there is a fine balance between just getting lost in a book, getting "into the reading zone," (Nancy Atwell) and analyzing a text by engaging in writing and drawing as we read. Literary adults might already engage in these deep reading behaviors I didn't get in school. But teachers, who need to model deep thinking for students explicitly in a variety of learning styles, might need to know how young readers can engage while they read to build the layers of comprehension. This is the only way educators will reach lots of different kinds of learners. Yes, we need to continue to teach deep thinking to equip students through good old fashioned reading of text. But how we equip them is going to look a little different than it has looked in the schools of the 19th and 20th century.
I'm starting to read through the eyes of a writer. As a social creature I naturally want to share my reading experience with others: my own children, my teaching colleagues, my students. As I started reading Legend on my ipad in iBooks I began highlighting characters' names, words that told the setting, then clues that inferred personalities of the character. I started doing this as a teacher, wanting to engage with text in the same way I asked my students to engage - to see what it felt like. Did I hate it? Was it unnatural? Then my reason for highlighting names and the setting was motivated by sharing the book with my daughters. Next, I started making notes in the margin with the stickies provided in iBooks. I used the evidence from the text to support my thinking. (Ironically, this is exactly what I am teaching my second graders right now.) My purpose for reading shifted again from reading to share with my girls to noticing how a writer embedded character traits into the writing; wondering if these traits would be useful to me later in the book when a character might do or say something that would align with that trait. This thinking motivated me to use it as a writing technique in my own writing. These writing elements jumped off the page after teaching a character-focused unit from Lucy Calkin's Reading Workshop. As I teach reading and writing, I am learning to be a better reader and writer. Go figure.
What implications does all this have for educators, text and the onset of digital tools? Engaging in the journey as educators demands we participate in the same process of thinking we are trying to teach to our children. Maybe other teacher friends of mine knew this secret and I didn't. Maybe this is why I feel so different from administrators and educators in conversations that don't quite dig deep enough. Still, aren't I lucky to be this engaged - to feel this passionate about teaching and learning about reading and writing, to feel as though I am continuing on the learning journey with technology as a tool and not feeling left behind? What a wonder!