At the beginning of the chapter, Donalyn reflects on her own preferences, therefore I reflected on mine. Not only do I have clear preferences, but these preferences are dependent on the role I'm playing and the context I'm in. I listen to non-fiction business and self-help books before bed to wind-down, but I don't read them. I enjoy a good science fiction book as an escapist read when I need to turn off my own thoughts for awhile. On an airplane, I prefer a realistic fiction book because it is easier to pick up and put down during interruptions and still follow the story. For some light or vacation reading, I'm currently collecting food-themed fiction and mystery books. Every few years I will re-read Anne McCaffrey, L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott and Sue Bender. In my professional life, I'm reading about language use, writing, and literacy as a cultural practice. Resnick (1990) categorizes literacy practices into various purposes: the sacred, the informational, the pleasurable, the persuasive and the personal-familial. Since we all read/write for different purposes, it would seem reasonable that we would have different preferences in different contexts. I wonder if my students could create a list like this - not just what titles/authors they prefer, but when and where they prefer to read particular titles/authors/types/genres?
But, I will admit that I haven't "pushed [myself] to read widely in order to best serve our students" (p. 167) as Donalyn recommends. There were some young adult titles that I would read summaries and recommendations about, rather than actually read the book. I greatly depended on the Cooperative Children's Book Center to help me recommend titles of areas I was ignorant about. Although many children learn the habits of networking to find books they enjoy, we need to be aware of the children who use vague terms like "scary" or "funny" books to describe their preferences. This is an indication that the child hasn't read widely enough to start defining his/her specific preferences. Might this relate back to not just personal taste, but reading in a variety of contexts?
As I was reading, I created what I imagined will be Hints or Guidelines for Teachers about helping students create preferences in reading:
- As teachers, we need to help students develop a more sophisticated understandings of genres to include the sub-genres. As Donalyn highlighted, not all sci-fi books have robots in them. In fact, one of my favorite sci-fi books is a re-telling of Jane Eyre (Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn). Not all mysteries have a murder. Not all romances are happy.
- As teachers, we need to accommodate students' preferences while expanding their reading repertoires and challenging them to explore new styles. This is a fine line to continue to encourage the text that students like AND introduce the unfamiliar.
- As readers, we need to expand our own understanding and acceptance for non-traditional genres. Styles, genres, and modes of text are changing constantly. Remember, at one time it was thought that BOOKS would be the downfall of civilization.
- As teachers, we need to expose students to more non-fiction in a variety of contexts. For many students, non-fiction has been assigned reading or report reading and they have lost the joy of reading to learn information. We need to make reading non-fiction as commonplace as reading fiction.
- As teachers, we need to create and use assessments/reflections that fit our goals for students and our own habits of organization. Over the years I've learned to work with my organizational style rather than against it which ensures that I actually keep records and can see the patterns of engagement of my students.
Why does all this matter? And I'm not just talking about chapter 5, but why think about providing time to read in class and help students develop habits of reading on the edges, guide students to become confident self-selectors of reading materials, share their reading with others, and have reading plans? Because as Donalyn states so eloquently "By the end of the year, our students have practiced all of the lifelong reading habits in our classrooms, they have reflected on their personal reading behaviors, and they have developed the tools and skills they need to become independent readers without our support. . . Their reading lives belong to them and they don't need us. They are wild readers now (pp. 192-193)
Resnick, L. B. (1990). Literacy in school and out. Daedalus, 119(2), p. 169-185.