I have this one magazine that I keep picking up, and every time I pick it up, I find something new inside it. While I was flipping through this magazine, I thought about the way that my students “flip” through the pages on websites.
I think that we have made a rapid progression from traditional narratives to websites, and I think that the transition has to be newspapers and magazines. The concepts are the same if you really think about it. You pick up the magazine and scan the cover for the articles that you want to read, then you skip over the stuff that isn’t interesting at the moment to get to the part that you want to read. I like to call this “the good stuff.”
On the internet, you do the same thing. You click links and travel from site to site to site finding all kinds of new information. Here is where I believe there is a problem: my students find reading too taxing an activity because it requires an extended amount of thought and commitment. You don’t get to skip to the good part because if you skip, there will be gaps in your understanding of a character or a theme in the novel.
Reading a magazine or a website is like telling yourself your going to be a runner. You buy the app on your phone, you purchase the shoes, you may even get fancy headphones that clip to your shirt to keep you from losing momentum when the headphones fall out of your ear. The problem isn’t in the getting ready, the problem is when you start that first run. You don’t have the follow through to actually get your feet to hit the pavement.
Maybe the problem doesn’t start for you until you realize that there will be hurdles. Running for 60 seconds is nothing compared to running for 20 minutes straight. Running gets gradually more difficult, just like books. Our students have no problem with the 40 page Junie B. Jones books of second grade, but those books are different. They don’t require a mental commitment or follow through. They are strictly being read for enjoyment.
Books with meaning, the kind that allow you to consider your world differently, the kind that teach you to question not only everything you’ve ever heard or been taught, but everything that you’ve ever read or seen or thought you saw. Everything is different once seen through the eyes of a reader.
This is my goal for next years teaching. I want to teach my students the value of committing to a book, the value of coming full circle with a character or group of characters and the value of meaningful and real discussions. My job is to teach students the affect that these books can have on your view of the world.
That was a long way of saying, I’m so ready for this coming school year. I’ve officially been on summer break for a total of two days. Maybe I really do love my job. =)
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