When we read a book we have an opportunity to learn from the author.  It is like having a conversation with the author.  This is a wonderful opportunity especially if the author knows what he/she is talking about!  But we have to change our thinking from just reading the words and enjoying them to asking questions, probing deeper and engaging with the author.

To engage in a conversation – it is a two way thing – they say something, you hear it, and then you say something, they respond and on it goes.  This can happen when we read a book.  The thing is we aren’t aware that this is going on in our head when we read – but if we read with a thinking attitude it is indeed what is going on.  We need to help our children understand this, so that they can use this strategy and learn from the many authors they are reading.

I encourage my children to read with a pencil in hand.  I personally like to underline things that jump at me, that connect with my heart, that make me think, that I agree with as I am reading.  I like to make notes in the margins.  If something is really important I put a bit asterisk, if I disagree with something I write “I DON”T THINK SO!!!!” in the margin.    This is my way of interacting with the author.

My children aren’t so comfortable writing in books – and fair enough.  (There is a downside to writing in your book – if you lend it to someone else they get to see your raw thoughts.)  I encourage my children to have a reading journal to write their thoughts, feelings, questions, summaries in as they read their book.  I also encourage them to copywrite quotes that are significant to either their own heart or to the topic they are learning about.

My daughter is currently reading a book that is set in World War II.   She thought, when she previewed/scanned the book, that she would be learning about World War II.  But her comments have been that the book doesn’t really give the history of the war but rather the tensions the people felt, their emotions, their struggles and everyday life.  This is doing two things for her learning; first it is showing her that the people in the war were real people, and secondly it is stimulating questions about the war that she can go and research.  I think this is real learning.

Reflecting as you are reading means you

  • think about what you are reading in connection to what you already believe, or questions you have about the topic
  • ask more questions
  • have ideas – make connections with other things you know
  • are able to summarise the key thoughts in what you have read
  • have feelings about what you have read, and these feelings can be communicated (you may feel annoyance, disbelief, curiosity, inspired, creative etc)

Some disciplines that help my children reflect are

  • Oral narrations – this is the pre-requisite to reading journals.  You need to be able to tell back what you hear before you go and write about what you hear
  • Discussions – once again my children talk about what they hear and learn before they go and write about it.  Discussions with other people help them expand their understanding or clarify things that their reading didn’t pick up on.
  • Teach others – in explaining what they are learning to others they are becoming clear in their thinking, this in itself is a clarifying experience

Previous post in this series:  Strategies for Reading to Learn – Gaining Context and Purpose

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