Friday, February 25, 2011

Practicing What I Preach

Reading instruction has come a long way from the days of Dick and Jane.  Best practices say that when teaching students about reading you should teach them not just the skills needed to decode the words, or to have a basic understanding of a text.  Teachers of reading all over the country are teaching their students to be strategic readers.  We model meta-cognition (that is, thinking about what you are thinking), have students practice monitoring their comprehension, making connections, visualizing, questioning, and summarizing a text.  We teach the features and structures of non-fiction, and how they differ from fiction.  And we teach them that the purpose for reading determines how you should read something.  Some texts require a slower rate and more strategic reading, some texts can be read faster without losing meaning.

So why is it that I can't practice what I preach?  I am a pretty quick reader, as I'm sure many book bloggers are.  I can whip through most YA and easy adult reads in a single day, more literary or longer works take me a week, max.  But I am working on week number three of the book I am currently reading, and it is driving me crazy.  Not the book, mind-that I'm enjoying very much.  It's the amount of time it's taking me to read it.

The book is Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon.  In my defense it is over 700 pages long, with small font, so it's not as though it's an especially short book.  But the real issue is that whole purpose for reading thing I mentioned above.  Gabaldon's prose is dense with historical detail.  And it's interesting historical detail, about a time period I don't know much about.  Both of these facts mean that in order to fully comprehend the text, even as an adult, I need to SLOW DOWN.  Darn it!  How can I fly through this book and get to the next book if I have to SLOW DOWN?!

But what do I have against slowing down?  I mean, it's not like I get paid by the book for the books I read.  I have no deadlines for reading.  The books that are waiting in my to-be-read bookcases (yes, bookcases, don't judge) will still be there.  So where is this pressure coming from?

Here's what I've figured out-I have so much of my self-concept tied up in being a smart, fast reader, that slowing down feels like a character flaw.  Do I know that this is irrational?  Yes.  Do I know that I should savor the titles that make me slow down?  Yes.  Can I seem to make myself do that?  NO

I believe I have now identified what my New Year's Resolution should have been...

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