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February 22, 2018

Reading Connections: Getting to the Heart of Reading

Books that Changed Us – Our Curriculum & Instruction Team Shares Some Reading Love

I’ve been recently inspired by a trending professional book called, “Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters,” by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst. It presents how to better support all readers in developing lifelong reading habits and promotes reading values beyond the skills. Using a simple framework and “disrupting thinking,” it challenges teachers to guide students deeper into reading connections by considering the following:

  • What you noticed in the text (Teachers typically do this – skill-based strategies.)
  • What happened in you, your thinking, as you read the text (Do you ever ask this?)
  • What you took to heart, what touched you or made you look at yourself or your world in a new way (How about this one?  It goes deep!)

I love how this launches readers’ thinking over and above the search for “right answers,” and inward to their own minds and hearts. Wow – this resonates with me!  As an avid reader, I began to consider these thinking cues and recognized them as the prompts that keep me coming back for more and more books. I get to the heart of reading and I can see and feel how the reading changes me – or doesn’t.

The fact is, no teacher ever asked me to think about my reading this way. It seems so simple and so important. How I wish I would have asked my 6th graders – all of them – to reflect on their reading this way. I wish I had shared more about how certain books and poems changed me. As part of my reflection and response, I asked some Curriculum & Instruction colleagues to share how any one specific reading (book or poem) really changed them. (Full disclosure: we’re all self-described “book lovers,” but thinking about our own reading is powerful for all educators – it gets us to the heart of lifelong reading!)  Here are a few highlights from their responses:

Dawn Butler, Lead Course Specialist

Poem that changed me: “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,”by Walt Whitman- first year of college as an English major.

Changes: Quite literally, it reminded me that I didn’t need to know everything about space or constellations or the life of a star- I just had to appreciate them as I wanted to, and that was enough. Whitman’s words were an affirmation: I could still appreciate the beauty and depth of art, the stars, nature, words, and it was ok if I just wanted to get away from the analysis of any of it. If they were powerful to me, I didn’t need to necessarily explain it.

This poem is still very important to me – it’s straightforward, and it’s accessible. It reminds me to get off my high horse once in a while and quiet myself with nature.

Molly Kiebel, Curriculum & Instruction Specialist

One poem that changed me: “Divingintothe Wreck” (from the book by the same title) by Adrienne Rich – read in first semester at the U of MN.

Changes: As an English major nerd, I was always “falling in love” with words. We were assigned a list of poems to explore on our own, and back before the Internet, I had to go to the library to find them. I pulled this collection off the shelf, read the first few stanzas, and even though I struggled to comprehend it, I knew it hadweight. It felt important to me in a new way, and I was taken aback by its intensity. I sat down right in the aisle and read the poem, and then the whole collection, in one sitting.

I remember thinking I was the luckiest girl in the world–to have the world in front of me and room to explore it in such a personal way.  I recognize the power of words to express things that feel bigger than ourselves. I have other poems and books that move me more now, but this was one of my first experiences realizing the real, tangible power of poetry. I still carry that respect and love with me whenever I open a new book of poetry.

KeelySwartzer, Director of Professional Development

Book that changed me:Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say NothingatAllby Karen Ehman – read two years ago when I was frustrated with the leadership in my organization which led to extreme dissatisfaction in my job.

Changes: I had a number of “breakthroughs” as I read, but the biggest one was – it’s just fine to say nothing at all. Not only is it just fine, it is often the best course of action! This book gave me some much-needed tools in a daily struggle to “mind my P’s and Q’s!”  

I recommend this book to friends and family members when I hear them talking about situations that are challenging and how they want to react.

Susanne Leslie, Lead Curriculum & Staff Specialist

Book that changed me:Love Warriorby Glennon Doyle Melton – read December 2016.

Changes: I had many “me, too” moments, and was astonished by how well the author articulated my own thoughts and feelings–exactly. I read a lot of this book aloud to my man-friend and reading it created deep discussions. There was a lot to deconstruct! I also talked about the book with colleagues and friends who were deeply impacted by it as well.

One key idea from this book is that it takes courage to act and change our lives. It also affirms that it’s crucial to love ourselves and to trust our judgment. Lastly, we are not “broken” families we are “fixed” families. This book provides reassurance and serves as a reminder to trust myself. It will live on my bookshelf, but I’m always happy to share it!

Marcee Harris, Curriculm & Evaluation Specialist

Poem that changed me: “O Captain, My Captain” by Walt Whitman as a kid. My mom shocked us by reciting it in its entirety from memory. She had learned it in school many years ago, and it stuck with her.

Changes I noticed: I was intrigued by the powerful imagery, somber tone, and historical references. I wanted to understand this piece that held a special place in my mother’s heart. What I found was a heavy, yet beautiful poem that honored Abraham Lincoln and his role in the fight for the freedoms I enjoy. The same freedoms that my mom continued to fight for in her role during the Civil Rights Movement in the South. To this day, this poem brings a tear to my eye when I think about how the power of words can take hold of our hearts and inspire us in ways we may not even realize.  

Barb Istas, Curriculum & Instruction Specialist

Book that changed me:A Wrinkle in Timeby Madeleine L’Engle – read when I was a 6th-grader.

Changes: A favorite teacher put this book in my hands, cautioned that it was “different” and wanted me to try it for that very reason. The war between evil and good, darkness and light, along with a female heroine – these themes blew my mind as a young reader. As a 6th grade ELA teacher, I shared this book with hundreds of students throughout the years, and I’ve read it too many times to count. Rich vocabulary, compelling characters, and a challenge to “suspend my disbelief” transformed my reading confidence and stretched my tastes to a new genre. Not to be overly-dramatic, but for me, this quote from the book says it all: “A book, too, can be a star, ‘explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,’ a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”  Boom!

Bringing all this beautiful change “home” is something I encourage all teachers to consider, first for themselves, then for their students. Books change us. Student readers (from ravenous to reluctant) deserve to understand this and more importantly, to feel it deep down in their hearts.

What’s on your reading list of books that changed you?

Looking to make your own reading connections and create your own “Reading Love Book Log?” Enter your email below to download additional ideas, action steps and a book log template for use in your classroom or at home.

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