Saturday, March 8, 2014

Cris Tovani's I Read It But I Don't Get It - My own experiences

Earlier this year, I read I Read It, But I Don’t Get It by Cris Tovani. Although I read this book several months ago, there are parts that keep resonating with me throughout the school year.

Cris Tovani talks in her book about the epiphany she had in her own book club.  She writes:

“It finally dawned on me; these readers had not come to book club knowing all the answers.  They were depending on one another to construct meaning.  That night we each shared what was happening inside our head.  Ellin explained that when she talked with others her comprehension got better.  Joetta said she liked to revisit and rethink sections of the book after she heard other people’s interpretations.  Asking questions helped Steph.  Julie visualized when she read.  By the end of the night, we had all become better readers of Beloved.”

I have seen this synergy in action in both our Q2 and Q3 Book Clubs.  The kids clearly explained to me that one of the reasons they like Lit Circles so much is because it helps them understand their novels at a deeper level.  They explained that by bringing their questions, predictions, and thoughts about their books to their groups each week, they help each other see and understand things that they might not have seen and understood when reading on their own.  That made perfect sense to me, and that is exactly what Cris Tovani experienced in her own Beloved Book Club discussion.

As readers, we need that social time to talk about what we read.  Recently, one of my sixth grade students brought this to a whole new level.  Emma explained to me on the first day of school that she hated reading.  For the first few weeks during SQUIRT (Super Quiet Un-Interrupted Reading Time), she used some highly perfected avoidance strategies.  She had to go to the bathroom, get a drink, see the counselor, ask a question, get a band-aid, etc.  Slowly, as the year progressed, these behaviors became less and less frequent.

A few weeks ago, Emma approached me and asked if I remembered how much she hated reading at the beginning of the year.  I laughed and told her I definitely remembered that.  She explained that she really liked reading now, and in fact, she wanted to start a Book Club at Powell.  She was hoping I would be her sponsor.  I was stunned.  Not only does Emma like to read, but she wanted to start a weekly Book Club and meet after school to read and talk about books???!!!  I was in!!!

We have only had 2 meetings so far, but the turnout has been great, and the kids are enthusiastic.  I was also surprised to see how many struggling readers joined Book Buzz.  I had thought it would be mostly comprised of my highest performing students, but that was definitely not the case.  The students selected 3 books:  Rules, Fever 1793, and Incident at Hawk’s Hill.  

Last week, Emma began the meeting by having Book Buzz members share their favorite place to read.  That was fascinating.  There were the usual responses: my bedroom, the living room, my backyard, etc.  However, we have one girl who likes to read in her toy box and two who like to read in trees.  Interesting!!!  We then spent about 15 minutes reading before breaking into groups for our discussions.  The groups were all highly engaged, and as a Language Arts teacher, it made me so proud to see these kids choosing to come to Book Buzz - even after a long day at school.  At the end, several students brought books that they wanted to share in Emma’s Show & Tell Book Talk component.  They even argued about who would be allowed to bring treats next time!

We will be meeting through the end of April, and I look forward to seeing them continue to develop their love of reading and talking about their books.

1 comment:

  1. I love reading posts like this - how much reading changes a person's life! Whenever a student says to me, " I hate to read" or "I can't read", I take it as a challenge. I believe that they just haven't found the right book or have not had positive experiences with books in the past. I love giving students time to have authentic conversations about books, their characters, an event you didn't see coming, etc. It really does excite them to continue as life-long readers!