Monday, August 22, 2011

Teaching Readers?

This past weekend I had the luxury of uninterrupted reading time, so I took advantage and devoured the book Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. I soooo enjoyed it, and it moved me so much that I found myself basically crying throughout the whole novel--and you know I'm a sucker for books that make me cry. It was such a pleasure to immerse myself in the story and with the characters. I've been in a bit of a reading slump lately, as I've been trying to slog through another novel that just isn't keeping my interest

Reading Okay for Now reminded me of two articles I've read over the last two weeks. The first was the recent essay by Robert Lipsyte, "Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?" He says:

If we’re to counter this tendency and encourage reading among boys who may collectively resist it, boys need to be approached individually with books about their fears, choices, possibilities and relationships — the kind of reading that will prick their dormant empathy, involve them with fictional characters and lead them into deeper engagement with their own lives. This is what turns boys into readers.

Okay for Now is definitely the type of book I think boy readers would enjoy. It features a great male narrator, sports, brother-brother and father-son relationship issues, and the drama of a tough home life. But there's also horseshoes, Broadway, Audubon, art, and romance. Something for everyone.

The second was an article linked to from Shelf Awareness with the provocative title "We Can't Teach Students to Love Reading."

Personally, I think just reading this long, rather dry article would turn someone off reading. (In fact, it infuriated my friend who has been in education for over a decade and is also a student of history.) One of the article's main points:
The extreme reader, to coin a phrase, is a rare bird indeed. ("I have done what people do, my life makes a reasonable showing," Lynne Sharon Schwartz writes. "Can I go back to my books now?") Such people are born, not made, I think; or mostly born and only a little made.

I think extreme readers are made every day--how many of us have heard people (children, mainly) say that they never liked reading until they read XX book, or that after they had this teacher or read that book, they forever acquired a love of reading?

But this part gave me pause:
I don't know whether an adult who has never practiced deep attention—who has never seriously read for information or for understanding, or even for delight—can learn how.

I wonder. How many people have made it to adulthood without the love of reading, only to acquire it later? Do any of you have any real-life examples?


Maya said...

I have a good friend who joined a lot of book clubs as an adult and seems to read a lot more. I thought that was cool.

Also re reading anecdotes, I remember once I was hanging out with my cousin at my Mom's and tried to find a magazine, and she asked me if I was the kind of person who had to be reading all the time. She said she was like this too, always looking for something to read. Also one of the commenters on that article mentioned always reading the box of the cereal box which I remember being hugely important to me as a child. Then I noticed my Flickr pix have always featured a lot of ads I find on the street (with writing in them). Basically both these comments have made me think a little bit more about reading as not something just confined to books, but as a habit which carries into other facets of life and change the way you perceive the world (like seeing it as a place to find writing). I've also thought about it wrt the internet.

/random thoughts.

Anna Alter said...

I don't have any examples, but I don't see why an adult couldn't develop a love of reading. Maybe if you never had that great teacher or class that introduced you to a great book as a child, the love wouldn't come until you picked one up later in life?

When it comes to extreme readers I can kind of see their point, some people seem to be born anxious to devour every book in sight, without any prompting from the adults around them. Sometimes I think it is an innate preference... like a love for animals or making art or performing. Not that anyone can't develop a love for reading, but some are just more inclined towards making it a big part of their life I guess.

Naomi Canale said...

I had a hard time loving books as a child, but I don't believe it was the books. I was constantly being tested and then held back. With all the scoffing from kids, reading put a bad taste in my mouth because that's what I was held behind for. Later as I grew (after High school) I started truly reading and fell in love with books. It was then I started writing which helped me develop that deep attention for books.

Libby Koponen said...

Not a one! Everyone I know who loves to read began as a child -- and at home, stimulated by the good books their parents gave them or read to them. School, from what I've seen (and this may well be just my own limited experience and the kinds of schools I went to and people I know) did nothing to foster a love of reading. In fact, it did just the opposite.

I think (from what I've read as well as seen, from my work with ''disadvantaged'' children) that many children arrive at school with poor language skills -- from not having been talked to or listened to enough -- and just keep falling farther and farther behind.#

There was a great program in North Caroline to counteract this ...

Anonymous said...

My husband may have loved to read when he was young but he lost that love by having to read too many boring textbooks in college. He got it back, though, by reading to our son and now he reads all the time.