I was playing with Scout the other morning. One of his favorite games involves a wadded up Post-It Note (there are always some around as I leave notes for myself most every day). He loves to play catch, and is quite good at it. He can catch the "ball" between his front paws. He also likes to bat it. He waits for me to toss the ball. He crouches down so he can spring up and catch or flick it in mid-air. After the game, he comes to me for some more attention and dances as I pet him. He will sit on front of the drawer where I keep his treats and look at me and the drawer. He has even learned how to open the drawer, pick up the treat dish and drop it at my feet. If the cat had opposable thumbs, he would not need humans, I think.
Why all this about Scout (other than bragging, of course)? It has to do with STANCE. Just as Scout has different stances depending on the "task" at hand, we have different stances when it comes to reading. Rosenblatt identified the ends of the stance continuum as EFFERENT and AESTHETIC. However, as it is a continuum, there are infinite places along the continuum between the two ends. So, in reading, I have the possibility of an infinite number of stances. Why, then, do reformists and others try to limit stances to those they deem worthy? Why do they ry to confine reading to the four corners of the text?
I am reminded of this tendency to narrow focus as I listen to how others respond to a book I have read. I belong to a community of readers (actually I belong to MANY communities) on Voxer. There are only 6 of us in the group, but even when we are talking about the same book, we are often talking about different responses. Different passages move us; different characters delight or annoy us. It makes for wonderful discussion. And so it is with my graduate students. We all read the same core set of books (I require about 50% of their reading to be in this set; the other 50% is choice). But, at the end of the semester, when to comes time to talk about our most and least favorites, there is generally wide disparity.
Years ago, I stole an idea from Chris Crowe's YA lit class. I have my students rank their books from 1 (most favorite) to 10 (least favorite. They send those lists to me. I tally them. Generally speaking, the "score" for most books falls somewhere around a 5. In other words, some student's favorite is another student's least favorite and so on and vice versa. It is an AHA! moment for everyone.
As the ALA Awards Are announced tomorrow, I suspect there will be some AHA moments for all of us. I suspect some of us will pleased and others not-so-much. What I will do then is pick up those books I have not read and begin to read them. I am coming to these books much as Scout anticipates the wad of paper: crouched and waiting for the thrill of the game.