professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Matters of the heart

Yesterday, I wrote about why books and reading matter. It is a topic that I could write about every single day. Each book I read adds to ME as well as to my knowledge. Books elicit a response in me. Sometimes that response is a shared laugh or sigh. Occasionally, the response is anger at something or someone from the story. And, on more than one occasion, my response has been the shedding of tears. The best of books, IMHO, are those that cause me to react and respond. Ellin Keene talked about this as empathy and engagement or emotional response at Boothbay a few weeks ago. I call it personal or emotive response. Response that begins with this personal or emotive reaction is essential if we wish to create readers. Because I respond on an emotive level does not prevent me from responding on a critical or evaluative level. Rather, the books that touch me deeply are more than likely the books I read more critically, the books I am able to evaluate and judge.

But I worry that we are circumventing this type of response. I fear that we have already de-valued and dis-counted it. And I am not the only one. Here is a wonderful post from Susan Ohanian: In this post, Ohanian shares my concerns, that close reading and multiple lessons plans and power points and all the folderol removes any pleasure or satisfaction kids will get from texts. If we are to create lesson plans longer than the book in question (and I still recall seeing a 40 page lesson plan guide for MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS), then please let us just use the crusty old exemplar texts instead. Let us save Amelia Bedelia and Max and She Who Is Alone from those who would tear their books into pieces so readers could analyze the dissected parts. Let us keep them whole and wonderful and full of delight and surprise and emotional reactions.

Ohanian concludes her post with this quote: "Trusting children and books is a revolutionary act. Books are, after all, dangerous stuff. Leave a child alone with a book and you don't know what might happen." Books can create empathy, can cause readers to question practices (oh, Black Beauty!), to cheer for characters who brave the tide of opposition, to worry about someone in a difficult situation (you know those books you read like you watch scary movies? turning pages and hoping all will be well), to mourn losses safely within the pages of the book, and so much more.

However, I would add that, while I will not beat a book to death, I also will ask readers what they thought about the reading. Talking about our reading is one thing that connects us all in this wonderful world of raccoon scouts, teenaged girls who send love out to airline passengers, and twins whose absent-minded professor Dad does not see danger when it lurks directly in front of him.
Tags: books, reading, response
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