professornana (professornana) wrote,

The final frontier, I mean virtue

Donalyn Miller, Karin Perry, and I sat up last last night talking about books and reading and world problems. During the conversation, I was struck with the final virtue I wanted to be sure to include. I had been dithering a bit about this final post, and then it all just coalesced. As we shared e books we had been reading and the books we had packed for the RGV adventure. The passion as we shard the stories. The laughs, the tears, the anger: books that evoked strong emotions. And that resulted in this final virtue post (for now): reading creates aesthetic experiences.

I am co-teaching a course for YALSA right now called Reading with a Critical Eye. For their first assignment, participants had to write a personal introduction and include in it one quality they find important in books. There are 30 students in that course. Almost every single one of them mentioned that books that left a lasting impression, that touched them, was essential. In some ways, this is that aesthetic experience.

I often pause when. reading, go back and reread, highlight or otherwise flag a phrase, a passage, sentence, chapter. I do that because there is such beauty in the language. Please understand that beautiful language does not mean high-falluting language. It means the way word are placed one after the other. Donalyn spoke last night about I'll Give You the Sun and a scene where Jude sees her mentor at work and understands the creative process and how it can consumer someone. Karin talked about another scene, so did I. All aesthetic experiences, all different pieces.

What if we asked kids to flag those pieces? It happened one year in a grad class I was teaching. Someone borrowed my copy of I FEEL A LITTLE JUMPY AROUND YOU. I had used post-it flags to mark a couple of poems I wanted to share aloud. When my book was returned, there were new flags, a different color, poems that spoke to the student who borrowed the book. A the book went from hand to hand, others added their own flags, all in different colors. But the time the book had run through the class members, I tnk eVery poem wa flagged, some multiple times. We had a wonderful discussion one evening about the poems and what we loved and why.

So, reading for pleasure, for the sheer beauty of the reading experience, is what keeps me reading. Every. Single. Day. Do you all feel as virtuous as I do?
Tags: books, reading, virtues
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