What professional books do you reread?
What authors do you follow?
When this long awaited book was chosen for #CyberPD, I was so excited. Time to read and reread over half of it. Time to share with others. But what would I share? It has been so tempting to “summarize” and share juicy quotes and tidbits that have captured my interest.
But here’s my simple message:
Why this book?
Because it truly is about deepening your own understanding of reading as well as considering your own practices as a reader. Are you, yourself, or were you ever a plot junkie, a surface reader, who is disappointed in students who don’t dig deeper into their own reading? Who have their models been? How would they know there is something BEYOND . . . ?
In this book, Vicki Vinton asks you to shift your thinking to a problem solving mode. The resources are never ending. One that I’m focusing on within another book group (reading Uprooted) is this chart about Expository Readers.
Read the title.
Read the title again out loud.
“How Expository Nonfiction Readers Figure Out the Implications of Facts”
And then the column headings. Consider turning them into questions. Don’t just jump to the content! Every word in this book matters. Trust this author!
What does a reader have to do?
On a second or third reread, I focused on the problem-solving task that Vicki had named under “What a reader therefore has to do”. I also thought about how deliberate and purposeful she is as an author. She did not set me up to read between the lines in this chart; instead she set me up to be a problem solver. Check out the beginnings in that column:
“Look for . . .
Think: . . .
Think: . . .
Think: . . .
Think: . . .
Be aware . . .”
What’s the pattern that Vicki specifically names? What actions is she expecting? Problem solving is not scripted. It’s all about what the “Thinking Teacher” does. I would be remiss if I didn’t further point out that a question is posed after the “Think:” which is how the reader needs to interact with the text.
Reading is a transactional process. The depth of my understanding or interaction with a text is all up to me as a reader. There may be a slow, draggy spot. There may be some confusion. The joy in reading comes from one of the key anchors in this text:
“Experience the thrill of figuring things out.” (Book Cover) (More about key anchors in this post.)
And as I was reminded by Vicki, “Think”.
So what this means to me as I am reading this book in a book group that has spanned continents!
As I am reading, I am searching for the answers to these two questions from Figure 8 – (above)
“How facts could be connected or related?”
“What do the fact imply?”
And patterns, patterns, patterns. Where do the patterns continue? Where do the patterns break down? So to focus, I look specifically at Marrin’s words. And these two quotes set the purpose:
“The historian’s job is to explain the behavior of human beings in the past. Yet to explain is is not to explain away, much less excuse.” (Marrin, p.7)
“The term racism as used in this book, refers to an ideology, a set of beliefs, fervently held, about others and how the world works. At its core, it insists that God, gods, or Mother Nature has divided humanity into distinct groups – races – with shared qualities. Racists, or those who believe in racism, hold that these groups are arranged pyramid-like, with the “best” or “superior” at the top, and the “worst” or “inferior” at the bottom.” (Marrin. p. 5)
How much do these two statements impact my thinking?
Marrin casually drops one-line statements into a section or a chapter about people who were racist and continues on with his narrative. This has been beyond jarring or disconcerting to me as these one liners, when first delivered, are often not reinforced with supporting details. Marrin reports them, moves on with the main focus, and sometimes comes back to a later detail (in another chapter) that shows the connections. Otherwise, the reader must hold these facts in mind and consider whether they are, “Yes, a part of the pattern”, “No, just a wild statement” or “Maybe, I’ll wait for more information”.
This has been hard.
Back in the dark ages, “nonfiction” was anything that was TRUE, and fiction was “anything that was made up”. Sounds simple like black and white. But those lines blur. Facts that are left out cause a disconnect. Did the author leave them out because they did not support his/her basic premise? Did the author leave them out because they could not be “sourced”? Ignoring the facts is not the goal. But making a statement 100 times does not make it a fact either. Where’s the balance? And that is the key to the “Think: . . .” actions that Vicki Vinton espouses in Figure 8-1 above.
Reading these two books (and responding in writing) side-by-side has given me the opportunity to dig in and try out the problem solving model that Vicki has laid out in her book. One book is joyous and about all the possibilities while the other challenges centuries of historical knowledge – tainted by the historical storytellers of the past. What I do know is that Marrin’s view of U.S. History is not the history I have ever found in textbooks. Nor is it the critical thinking that our students need in order to be productive and participating citizens of the 21st century.
Tip: Read the charts in Dynamic Teaching as if they are GOLD!!!
Which charts are you going to return to again and again?
What have you applied from either chapters 7 or 8?
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