Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.
– Angela Carter
Just because I’m not in classes at the moment doesn’t mean I’m not reading. It does mean I’m not reading anything that anyone has assigned to me.
It also means I’m sneaking some fiction into my brain. Tomorrow, I’ll pick up Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Some of my favorite students gushed over the book, but I never took the time to read it while I was in the classroom. Somehow, picking it up without the title of “Teacher” attached to my actions makes the reading seem more pure. I’m not reading it to teach in the next few months. No unit or lesson plans will rely on what I get from the experience. I’m reading it to be entertained.
One of the more frequent state standards (and now a Common Core standard) is identifying author’s purpose. (There’s a whole philosophical argument I could make against this, but that’s another post.)
As I anticipate delving into Card’s imagined dystopia tomorrow, I’ve started to think about the importance of asking students to identify reader’s purpose.
If a student is reading a non-fiction text in class, the answer to the question should be, “Because I’m curious,” or “Because it’s interesting.” Some off shoot thereof makes the most sense.
Reader’s purpose in school is most often, “I’m reading this because my teacher said,” or “It was assigned.”
That shifts the experience considerably. I’m looking forward to losing myself in the imagination of tomorrow’s reading, to meeting new characters and trying to figure out how pieces of the narrative puzzle fit together.
Most importantly, I’ll be shifting my purpose from word to word, chapter to chapter. The journey through the book will inform what I want out of it and what I expect.
Were I reading for someone else because the book had been assigned me, the journey would be emptier. I’d be reading to run someone else’s literary errands, hoping to keep the change when all was said and done.
A balanced reading diet is important. Compelling others to read what they are told is forcing them to eat their vegetables. It’s a great way to get people to hate their vegetables.