I have been interviewed by two outlets in the past few days, and some of this has come into focus. What is the purpose of reading? How do we know authorial intent? Is all reading to cover standards? I have certainly talked about these questions before. However, I think there are some things that bear repeating. Is that not what preaching to the choir is all about?
What is the purpose of reading? Sometimes, I read to gain information. Rosenblatt might call that my efferent stance for my reading. I read an article about how to keep my iPhone battery from draining for the information it provides. I read it in a very different way than I freed other texts. In the case of the iPhone article, I read a portion, pull out the iPhone, and follow the first set of directions. Then, I read a little more, try it out, return to the text. There is nothing about this process that is at all similar to the way I read a poem (read it through, read it aloud, perhaps read it yet again and again depending on the poet, poem, my frame of mind, my personal and emotive response).
Sometimes I read for pleasure. Okay, most of the time I read for pleasure. My aesthetic stance (Rosenblatt again) can mean I plow through a book or it could mean I savor passages and sentences and even words. It could mean I annotate as I read. Or it can mean that I read it at 90 mph. For instance, I read a middle grade novel yesterday. It took me 90m minutes from start to finish. It was light and funny. I know the audience for this book. I will mnore than likely include it in some book talks down the road. Will it be nominated for an award? Probably not unless it is one where middle grade readers nominate and vote on their favorites. Later that day I began reading another book for pleasure. I am still reading it, a chapter or two at a time. I do not want it to end.
Sometimes I read for a committee duty. That reading is also a bit different. It generally involves lots and lots of rereading. And note taking and annotating and questioning and marginalia. This reading is somewhere along that continuum between efferent and aesthetic. It moves along that continuum due to many factors. Occasionally it is more efferent than aesthetic. Then again, that point might move again with a different book.
I read for many different purposes. I wonder how much our kids get the chance to take lots of different stances. Is there time for the aesthetic and the efferent and for everything along that continuum? I hope so. I would hate to see each book become a lesson in close reading or a lesson on a Common Core standard. Kids deserve to read for all sorts of reasons, at all sorts of speed, in all manner of positions (lying in bed, sitting in a comfy chair, reclining on the floor, etc.), and with any speed that suits the situation and the text and their mood. CHOICE, Donalyn Miller reminds us, is essential. I choose to read. I choose to read in different ways, at different speeds, in different stances. I hope we afford kids the same.