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28 April 2016 @ 09:05 am
Un-reading  
I was reading an article by Will Richardson this morning about the elephants in the classroom (http://willrichardson.com/9-elephants-classroom-unsettle-us/) and ran across this thought from Seymour Papert that talks about "intuitive, empathic, common sense knowledge about learning." I know that in my teaching I do rely on intuition and empathy and common sense as well as the pedagogical base. I think that teaching requires both cognitive and affective, both theory and practice, both thought and feeling.

So, why the title of this post? It is sort of a blending of random thoughts. As I read the Richardson article, I kept thinking about how some would have us teach reading in such a way as to create un-readers. Lately, I have seen renewed call for phonics instruction (not that it ever went away, mind you) based on a very small study of adults in the field of neuroscience. I see piece after piece about teaching the CCSS. And I see pieces about dissecting text. Most often, I see articles about testing. I wonder how any of this leads to anything other than un-reading.


Perhaps a better term for un-reading might be school reading. Kids do read at school, but it is not the reading they will do as lifelong readers, lifelong learners. I read. A LOT. and I do not take tests over my reading. I do not create dioramas about the books I read. I do not write book reports. I am not unlike other adult readers here. Instead, my fellow readers and I share books, talk about books.

Yesterday, Karin Perry and I sat in our conference room after lunch and read a stack of picture books. We swapped titles. She would read one and pass it to me and vice versa. When we were done, we placed some on the whiteboard edge and displayed others on the book table (yes, we keep a small table in our conference room for displaying books. Recently, the display has focused on #wndb). The other department members will grab books when they need a break, read the books, and then we float them onto the giving away cart in our hallway. Students come and take books for their future classroom libraries. We also have some other department faculty who come by to pick up books as well. This, I will argue, is reading.

I know this piece has meandered (so, what else is new you might ask?). I am still turning this idea of un-reading over in my brain. I want to liken it to the un-writing I did for my dissertation, that 3rd person void of voice writing. Yes, it was writing, but it did not have heart and soul in it. It was without voice, without life, without passion. Now when I write, there is voice and life and passion. Ditto reading, I think. There is the souls, lifeless, passionless reading I can recall from some of my school days. And then there is the reading I was doing outside of school. Yes, I became a lifelong reader. I would argue, though, that I am still a reader because I found reading outside of school pleasurable and meaningful; it fed my mind and my heart and my soul.

I worry, though, about those kids who do not have this sort of counterbalance, this outside of school opportunity to become lost in a book.
 
 
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