When your students finish reading a book, what is the next thing they are expected to do? Take an AR quiz? Write a book report? Create a diorama? Begin a new book? Or do they stop to reflect on what they have just read?
When I finish reading a book, whether it is memoir, historical fiction, or contemporary fiction, I like to think about this question: “How will I live my life differently or think about the world differently as a result of reading this book?” This is a great thought-provoking question to ask at the end of a whole class read-aloud or during a conference with a reader who has recently finished a book.
With the arrival of the Common Core State Standards during the past several years, there is a lot of discussion these days about increasing the quantity of nonfiction text our students read. I agree that this is a necessary step and that most of our students don’t currently spend enough time poring over nonfiction. But I caution you not to abandon fictional reading! A colleague recently shared with me that she is currently teaching a nonfiction reading unit of study, so her read-aloud time has been strictly devoted to sharing nonfiction books. But she confessed that she misses having an ongoing chapter book read-aloud. I don’t blame her—I would miss it, too! We talked about ways that she could fit both types of read-aloud into her packed school day.
In the book Readicide, author Kelly Gallagher cites the work of philosopher Kenneth Burke (1968) who asserts that when children read novels it provides them with “imaginative rehearsals” for the real world. Imaginative rehearsals. I love that! Gallagher writes, “When children read books, they are not just reading stories. They are being given the opportunity to understand the complex world they live in.” When children read great books, they not only get to “walk in a character’s shoes”, but they also get to think about their own lives and how they might act in similar situations in the future.
In my new favorite professional book Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading, Beers and Probst devote an entire chapter to the role of fiction! Here are my favorite quotes from the chapter:
“Listening to and telling stories is [our] way of making sense of the world.”
“It is imaginative literature that offers readers a chance to think about the human issues that concern us all: love, hate, hope, fear, and all the other emotions, problems, situations, and experiences of living.”
“Nonfiction lets us learn more; fiction lets us be more.”
“Current research shows that [fiction] affects the way we interact with one another.”
“Contemporary research in psychology and brain functioning confirms the value of fiction in our intellectual and emotional lives, telling us that the effects of reading fiction are far more significant than the mere pleasure of vicarious experiences and the temporary and insignificant release of momentary escape from the present.”
“A good book…can change us.”
Tune in tomorrow for some book recommendations that might inspire you and your students to look at life a little differently after reading them!