professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Books reveal themselves. Whether they exist as print or pixels, they can be read and examined and made to spill their secrets. Readers are far more elusive. They leave traces—a note in the margin, a stain on the binding—but those hints of human handling tell us only so much. The experience of reading vanishes with the reader.

I ran across this quote in an article recently about how researchers are examining old books for signs of reader-interaction for lack of a better term. From another article ( comes this quote:

From the advent of publishing, generations of readers marked their books with thoughts and responses, sometimes very detailed, to what they were reading. The lectures of great philosophers, artists, and doctors were attended by students who took copious notes which, occasionally, survive. Card catalogs, family Bibles, and scientific field books are full of information jotted down in the moment and often preserved nowhere else. All of this amounts to a trove of data about the world scattered in libraries and archives that only now is becoming possible for researchers to share and study easily.

This second article worries that with the advent of eBooks we are losing this bit of marginalia. I am not that concerned for a couple of reasons. First, I make notes in my eBooks, and I take notes about those I listen to in audio as well. I still do write in books (my own books, of course). I still recall one semester of YA literature back in the face to face meeting days when a copy of my I FEEL A LITTLE JUMPY AROUND YOU edited by Janeczko and Nye went through many hands, each person using sticky notes to mark favorite selections.

But the other reason I am not terribly concerned is that it has never been common practice for kids to annnotate books since so many of the books I used were property of the school/district/state. No, the notes we made were in our writer's notebooks or in our class discussion. However, I do wish we could give all kids copies of the books we want them to read and love. I wish we could permit them to annotate and make marginalia to their hearts' content.

I love the reference to readers from the opening quote: the experience of reading vanishes with the reader. That is how it should be, I think. Instead, in far too many schools, the experience of reading leaves a paper trail a mile long: data, the new KING of the classroom. How many pages did Tom read? What did Jane make on her AR test over the book? Has Amy worked her way up to a Lexile that is acceptable to CCSS requirements? I worry that the reading experience will become simply one more thing that kids do to provide grist for the mill, in this case the naysayers and critics who continue to decry the pitiful state of reading in our schools.

After spending a couple of days last week with some ELAR teachers, I am far from naysaying. I heard stories of kids who cannot wait for read aloud, who are reading book after book. And the stories of teachers who are still committed to workshop, to choice, to discussion about books abounded as well. So, maybe I am a YASAYER? We need more of us celebrating one another and the work we are doing to keep the love of reading alive in kids (and adults in my case). Will you join me in being a YAYSAYER?
Tags: books, marginalia, readers
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