Remember book reports and posters and book talks and dioramas and all that stuff that we were assigned after having read a book for school? Some of that was fun, but much of it was assigned as a way to verify that we had in fact read a book. It was reading for a grade and little else. Hmmm.
Nobody ever does any of those Show-and-Tell’y kinds of things after we leave formal schooling, of course. After each poster or diorama was graded, we took it home to show the family and then it probably sat around the house gathering dust somewhere, like in our rooms or on the dining room table where we rarely ate. The cat might inspect it or our baby cousin might attempt to dismantle it to see what all the fuss was about, but after a day or two that was it. Out to the trash or the attic it went.
Now let’s consider responses to completing a book these days. What do grown readers do?
I think our adult reading is largely private. We may say 10 words to our spouses or to good friends about a book we finish, but that’s it. If we encounter someone who’s also read the book, then there will be a flurry of co-sharings of good parts or about admired traits or despicable behavior in the tale. If we finish a non-fiction book, we might turn to specific pages to share with a fellow enthusiast or in response to a casual inquiry. That could lead to a nice conversation about the book, but little else.
If I finish a fiction book, I usually just sit and reflect upon it. I’m usually sorry it’s over, already missing the people and places I had come to know so well, and not wanting to return back to my actual, not-particularly-interesting existence. I may ask a fellow fan of the author or of a character if they want the book once I finish it. I totally devoured it and now it could offer spiritual and mental nourishment to someone else. I’m finished. Onwards and upwards for me.
Upon reflection, my very, very most important and valuable response to having completed a book is that I very quickly turn to the thoughtful selection of my NEXT book. That event sends me off into a ravenous search for another book with which I can connect and into which I can delightfully launch myself.
(It’s important to note here: I’m a joyful and insatiable reader.)
As an educator, I worry constantly about children who can read, but who don’t read unless required to, and who won’t read once that last book-reporting event is graded. These kids are done with books.
If that’s the case, I am left to wonder what might we lead them to do instead of expending all that effort, wasting those reams of construction paper and squandering the hours they might put in after assigned books have been closed for good? What might we do instead of spending time grading such things?
My interest is in what would make the completion of one book a natural launch of a search for another.
Basically, how might we lead these apparently able readers to actually BE readers? Hmmm?