When a book is enthusiastically read, there is a clear flow of information from the author to the eager reader. She gets her own unique kind of delight from the book by making personal sense of the author’s words, text and illustrations, connecting it with what she already knew, understood or experienced. The enjoyment can be such that the reader might even feel some remorse about a fictional book ending, not wishing to interrupt the delightful experience that the book provides with its characters’ adventures and interactions. When such a reading experience is shared with someone else, the richness of the information and enjoyment is further magnified and multiplied by the conversation that is interspersed with or follows the reading.
Another particularly rich book encounter is when the book is nonfiction, and can even be read and enjoyed in a very focused or in a non-linear fashion as the reader seeks to answer a specific personal question or address an immediate quandary. Readers can jump into the particular part of a nonfiction book that offers information or opinion which speaks directly to a personal inquiry. Having done that, that type of informative or educational book can be considered to be read, and returned to the shelf to await future use. And just like reading fiction, a nonfiction reading experience can be extended and expanded when the fulfilled inquiry gets shared with others in a group or family.
But don’t get me wrong. A good book is certainly enjoyable without a whole lot of conversation, though conversation can lead to shared connections and a broadening and deepening of impact from the initial reading. Novels and short stories invite discussion about the author’s characters, events, setting, style or theme. A factual book about something that the reader finds fascinating is most often worth a conversation, around the ever-compelling, I didn’t know that!, which can spur lively and expanding sharing about that newly acquired concept or eye-opening vista of knowledge.
Conversation about a book must be part of early reading experiences to maximize discussions about books throughout life. That is, if we wish those new to reading and literacy to embrace books fully, then we must not just allow them to converse. We need to demonstrate for them how to start or participate in a lively discussion, and to create a rich context for interaction around all reading. That kind of social dynamic will turbocharge the literate experience, laying the groundwork for a strengthening of competence with using and creating text, a stronger relatedness to one’s community, family and peers, and of course personal autonomy, present as a lifelong habit of self-determined reading and learning.
The wonderful blessing for those lucky enough to have grown to become avid readers is that there is always another book to enjoy and share with classmates, colleagues, friends and family.
So many books, so little time!