“Real” Reading

This year I’ve asked the teachers in the SPF English Department to embark on an individualized professional development experience.  Inspired by Heather Rocco’s work in Chatham, NJ (which you can read about here), my teachers have taken on a “Genius Hour” project (or 20% time which you can read more about here) during our designated time together.  Teachers are (hopefully) engaging in a year long project that reignites a passion for English/Language Arts, helps them be a better teacher of reading and writing, or helps scratch a professional itch of some kind.  You can read more about my project here.

My sister sent me a text message the other day, rejoicing about a book she read.  My sister is Reader-with-a-capital-R for sure.  She is constantly reading books, articles, magazines.  Most of what she reads comes recommended from the New York Times or The Economist (she’s also a BIG nerd).  And while she has often recommended books that come to her from those kinds of sources, she was extolling the virtues of what she deemed a “fun read” the other day.

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I told her I, too, was in a reading rut and had picked up what I deemed a “light” read.  Not YA, not dissertation-related, not Pulitzer Prize winning, and not going to be on the New York Times notable books list.  I told her that I had done a lot of reading recently, but that most of it had been via audiobook or for my dissertation.  I wanted to find my groove with a paper book again.

Enter this post by Amy Gibson on the Nerdy Book Club blog.  Amy writes about what “counts” as real reading.  Do audio books?  Do graphic novels?  Do picture books?

Like Amy, I would of course answer yes to all of those categories.  Yes as I reacted with a (mental) cheer to Amy’s post, I couldn’t help but think about my own rhetoric regarding reading.  Hadn’t I just told my sister that I felt like the journal articles I was reading and the audio books I rely on as I drive, run, and cook weren’t real reading?

The answer, I think, is that while I DO consider all of those things real reading, and while I would rejoice, celebrate, and applaud any reading any student did, I find joy in sitting with a physical book (be it digita or paper, I’m no snob) and racing through chapter after chapter just because I enjoy it.  Not because I want to book talk it to teachers, because I have to participate in Book Club, or because it might hold the key that unlocks my argument, but because I want to.  Both of those kinds of reading are important and valuable, but they don’t give me the same fulfillment as curling up on the couch with the Discovery of Witches series and turning page after page.

I’m still reading Remains of the Day, still pushing forward on my dissertation, still plowing through A Man Called Ove for our department book club, but it’s nice sometimes to give myself permission to get lost in a book that’s just fun and just for me.  An important reminder that what we read is maybe not always as important as why we read.

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