Here is a WORDLE created from the anchor texts for reading under CCSS. I include it here mostly as a contrast for the real subject of this post: complexity and rigor of a different kind, one that is tough to quantify. As I was driving last week to and from Richardson for a workshop at the region service center, I was listening to two audiobooks, what I call "reading with my ears." I finished NAVIGATING EARLY about half way up to the DFW area and switched over to THE TRAGEDY PAPER for the remainder of the journey. I will more than likely complete that audio this week during my commutes.
At several points in NAVIGATING EARLY, I thought I would have to pull over because tears were obscuring my vision. Windshield wipers are great for rain, but there is no such invention for tear wiping while driving. It started me thinking about this past year and all the listening I did for the Odyssey Committee (somewhere between 750-1000 hours) and the laughter, tears, gasps that were elicited. And I can also recall other such incidents of emotional responses to texts no matter the format (audio, eBook, traditional texts).
What does this have to do with rigor or complexity? Well, that IS the question. These books I mention and others I have listened to of late are all about 5th grade reading level and within the Lexile bands for CCSS for 4-5 grade as well. But I wonder about how well the emotions resonate with 4th and 5th graders. Even John Green's TEH FAULT IN OUR STARS is in the same range. I think about the EQ (emotional quotient) needed to appreciate FIOS and TRAGEDY PAPER and even NAVIGATING EARLY and I am not certain younger readers will find the books as moving as I did. Ditto HOKEY POKEY by Spinelli (RL 3.6; Lexile rec 3-4 grade) and many others.
Emotional complexity and rigor or IMPACT is something quite difficult to quantify. Part of this is because something might resonate with me on an emotional level and not resonate (or resonate differently) with another reader. It depends on what we bring to the text (you know that background stuff that is messy and CCSS would rather not deal with it). Having lost a daughter to cancer gives me a different lens when reading FIOS. Reaching a birthday milestone colors my response to HOKEY POKEY. Being a lover of words that paint pictures, I see things in THE BIRD KING by Shaun Tan that apply to language as well as art. These experiences create a text that I read that others might not.
There are many other UNquantifiables (is that even a word? My spell check insists it is not). As I am reading AS TANGLE OF KNOTS, I am keeping a running list of other books, movies, TV shows, etc. I can associate with the text. I did not set out to do this, but I felt compelled to do this after reading just the opening chapters. So, I am making a ladder as I read. What made me need to do this? How does the author make me cry? Laugh? Get angry? These are the questions worth pursuing as far as I am concerned.
I know tis is sort of a scattered post. I am trying to write my way to understanding. It is something that will take some time. But I do think it is an avenue worth exploring. It is something I would share with students in a discussion of books and reading. What are those texts that move us beyond simply reading to responding deeply and emotionally? Is it something in the text? Something in the reader? Both? Can we explore it over the course of our time together? Exploring texts and their effect on us emotionally: what a novel idea.