My description of the keynote, which I needed to submit in October 2019, looked like this:
Enabling understanding through reading: the development of a reading mind | The FOSIL Group
According to Saul Bellow in his Foreword to The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom, Balzac declared that the world belonged to him because he understood it. This means that the world and the fullness of its possibilities is open to our students to the extent that they understand how it works, or closed to them to the extent that they don’t. Our role in their reading journey from information through knowledge to understanding is a complex one, and the focus of this keynote.
As this is a very important topic, and a complex one, I had always intended to involve members of the FOSIL Group who I could learn from, colleagues such as Alice Visser-Furay. Alice (@AVisserFuray) is the Literacy Coordinator and Reading Intervention Specialist at King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage, Oxfordshire. I first made contact with Alice after she shared her Literacy key questions and strategies 2019-202 on Twitter (this now also features on Alice’s excellent website – Reading for Pleasure and Progress). What struck me, from the perspective of a school librarian, was Alice’s emphasis on academic reading [for progress] in addition to her emphasis on reading for pleasure, as well as how highly regarded she is for her work on developing both. This made Alice the obvious choice for the keynote, and I am delighted that she agreed.
Alice introduces herself in the Staff/Common Room here.
I am also delighted that Alice has agreed to think through the keynote with me in the Forum, because an important function of the Forum is to make the thought behind what we do explicit to the benefit of the community – as Doug Engelbart said, the better we get at getting better, the faster we will get better. So please join us in the discussion.
To get things going I share the following from Reading nonfiction : notice & note stances, signposts, and strategies (2016, Beers & Probst, p. 4):
A stance is required for the attentive, productive reading of nonfiction. It’s a mindset that is open and receptive but not gullible. It encourages questioning the text but also one’s own assumptions, preconceptions, and possibly misconceptions. This mindset urges the reader both to draw upon what they do know and to acknowledge what they don’t know. And it asks the reader to make a responsible decision about whether a text has helped them confirm prior beliefs and thoughts or had enabled them to modify and sharpen them, or perhaps to abandon them and change their mind entirely.
This is so much more than getting children to read and/or like reading, and strikes me as more even than just developing their ability to read. Where to begin?
Thank you to Darryl for inviting me to speak at the SLG conference. I very much look forward to exploring the development of the reading mind with Darryl and anyone else on the forum.
I am delighted that Darryl’s first volley was Reading Nonfiction by Beers & Probst; the book that first got me thinking about the reading mind, especially in the context of struggling readers, is called When Kids Can’t Read, What Teachers Can Do and it is by Kylene Beers (2002). This book has been a metaphorical bible for me as a teacher and intervention specialist looking for ways to improve the academic and life chances of students.
Beers and Probst have another book, Disrupted Thinking: Why How We Read Matters (2017). In it, they talk about reading as more than retrieval and extraction; they advocate interaction with text – teaching students how to read with curiosity, how to ask questions and how to let what they read change them. They conclude by stating (p. 162):
Perhaps, therefore, the most important thing we do with children is to ask them to consider how they might have revised their thinking as a result of reading. ‘How has this book or story touched you, made you think again about who you are or what you value? How has this text changed your thinking?’
As educators, we need to teach students how to develop the ability to allow text to ‘disrupt’ thinking – and we need to provide a multitude of opportunities for them to engage with challenging fiction and non-fiction from a variety of viewpoints. In our keynote, I am hoping that we can provide practical strategies that librarians, leaders and teachers can use to develop the reading mind.
So much has happened in 2 months, including the already-postponed SLG National Conference being postponed until 2021.
Unfortunately Disrupted Thinking: Why How We Read Matters is in lockdown, but I have Reading Nonfiction. In it Beers & Probst share the following haunting bit of a lesson they heard from a teacher (pp. 5-6):
This teacher, burdened by constraints he felt from his district, had set aside what he told us were best practices to instead use “test practices that I know will show the administration I did all I could to get kids ready for the almighty test.” So, his lesson on a topic (any topic will do) basically followed this pattern:
Show students an interest-building clip on the topic from the web.
Tell kids what they need to know about the topic. They take notes.
Have some discussion on the topic.
Give kids a test on the topic.
Show. Tell. Discuss. Do you notice what is missing? Where’s the reading kids do to learn about the topic? When we asked the teacher that question, he pointed out that when he begins his series of lectures about the topic (lectures lasting from one day to several weeks), he often has short articles from the web up on the whiteboard for all to read. We asked him if that was enough reading to help students become savvy readers of nonfiction. He stared at us for a moment and then responded that “the textbook is worthless, and frankly I don’t have time for kids to read in class. And they don’t want to read. They don’t care about the topics we discuss, so if I gave them something to read, if they did anything it would be just a surface-level reading.” We asked if he assigned reading for home. “Are you kidding?” he replied. “They wouldn’t do it.” Then he asked us, “So, if you were trying to get kids into reading some nonfiction, how would you do it?“
Beers & Probst then go on to write a book about this. However, their context is, arguably, different. So, if you were trying to get kids into reading some nonfiction, how would you do it, given that I’m guessing many teachers here would consider themselves to be in a similar situation to the teacher Beers & Probst describe?
I have been reading through this discussion with interest due to a couple of planned webinars I am running on the 2nd and 9th of June around Literacy and Reading Promotion. I have found it very useful to read that ‘reading for information’ is equally important as ‘reading for pleasure’ as this is where I want to focus my session. I feel that school librarians need to understand that literacy comes in all forms and not just fiction and as I begin to bring my ideas together for these webinars I look forward to discussing my thoughts with you both.
I just wanted to share my thought process so far. Literacy and Reading Promotion within the IFLA School Library Guidelines does very much follow the traditional pattern within the ‘normal’ school of thought. With the librarian’s role in creating good diverse library collections, book talks, library displays, special events, book awards and book events and I will start my webinar talking about this.
However, I have found both of these within the guidelines:-
“A school library operates as a… Literacy centre where the school community nurtures reading and interact development in all its forms” which I feel gives me justification to move onto ‘reading for learning’ and
Reading and Literacy Capabilities: “Abilities and dispositions related to the enjoyment of reading, reading for pleasure, reading for learning across multiple platforms, and the transformation, communication and dissemination of text in its multiple forms and modes to enable the development of meaning and understanding.”
Both of these quotes gives me the opportunity to talk about the school librarians role in reading within-subjects… Alex Quigley’s book Closing the Reading Gap has a chapter on it which I was going to use.
Do you think this is a good connection and how much time should I send on the first part? I am open to any ideas 🙂