Becoming Readers

Here is why I have hope for children who have fallen behind and why I call them developing readers instead of struggling ones: these students have the ability to become strong readers. They may lag behind their peers on the reading-development continuum, but they are still on the same path. What they need is support for where they are in their development and the chance to feel success as readers instead of experiencing reading failure. They also need to read and read. Time and time again, I have seen a heavy dose of independent reading, paired with explicit instruction in reading strategies, transform nonreaders into readers.

— Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, p. 25

Our Job

Librarians must be on the forefront with community and early childhood agencies to make reading and literacy an essential and pleasing experience embedded within each family’s daily lifestyle by providing guidance, encouragement, enthusiasm, and inspiration — in other words, by taking on the role of a coach in regular family reading initiatives.

— Rita Soltan, Solving the Reading Riddle, p. 68

Talking About Books

Early in my career as an educational consultant I believed that the key to turning children into readers was simply to put the right book in the right hands at the right time and, bingo, children would love the stories they read. I quickly realized that something was missing. I soon recognized children also needed to talk about the books they read. Showing children they have something to say about the books they read helps them engage and connect with a story — children who talk about stories understand the stories better. This is an essential component of children becoming confident readers, and children need confidence to be good readers. Every child needs and deserves the advantage of being a good reader.

— Diane W. Frankenstein, Reading Together, p. 3

They’re All Readers.

I need to put forward more encouraging terms for my students than the negative popular terminology struggling and reluctant. Where is the hope in thses terms? I prefer to use positive language to identify the readers in my classes. Peeking into my classroom, I see sixty different readers with individual reading preferences and abilities, but I consistently recognize three trends: developing readers, dormant readers, and underground readers.

— Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, p. 24

Reading Regardless of Medium?

The medium does matter. It matters greatly. The experience of reading words on a networked computer, whether it’s a PC, an iPhone, or a Kindle, is very different from the experience of reading those same words in a book. As a technology, a book focuses our attention, isolates us from the myriad distractions that fill our everyday lives. A networked computer does precisely the opposite. It is designed to scatter our attention. It doesn’t shield us from environmental distractions; it adds to them. The words on a computer screen exist in a welter of conflicting stimuli.

— Nicholas Carr, “The Bookless Library,” in Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?, edited by John Brockman

Solutions in Reading

I am one of those overeducated library types who might be expected to look down her nose at self-help books — but the whole bookstore is a self-help section to me. When something needs to be fixed, when I need something to change, my first and abiding instinct is to read. I think I can read my way to a solution. Or at least an evasion.

— Lauren F. Winner, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, p. 23

Antidote to Life’s Doldrums

My curiosity and love of learning have been sustained by the advice Merlin gave Arthur in T. H. White’s Once and Future King: “The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn.” I can’t count the number of times I have conjured up Merlin’s advice, and it always proves true — learning is a wonderful antidote to life’s doldrums and it keeps me alive to the wonders of the world.

— Diane W. Frankenstein, Reading Together: Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read, p. 2

Reading Connection

That’s what’s so wonderful about reading, that books and poetry and essays make us feel as though we’re connected, as though the thoughts and feelings we believe are singular and sometimes nutty are shared by others, that we are all more alike than different. It’s the wonderful thing about writing, too. Sometimes I would think I was the only person alive concerned about some crazy cul-de-sac of human behavior. Then I would get the letters from readers and realize that that was not the case, that we were not alone, any of us.

— Anna Quindlen, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, p. x

Reading as Revolution

Lately, I’ve begun to think of this as the touchstone of a quiet revolution, an idea as insurrectionary, in its own sense, as those of Thomas Paine. Reading, after all, is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction, a matter of engagement in a society that seems to want nothing more than for us to disengage. It connects us at the deepest levels; it is slow, rather than fast. That is its beauty and its challenge: in a culture of instant information, it requires us to pace ourselves. What does it mean, this notion of slow reading? Most fundamentally, it returns us to a reckoning with time. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment, to let the narrative prevail. Even more, we are reminded of all we need to savor — this instant, this scene, this line. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise, the tumult, to discover our reflections in another mind. As we do, we join a broader conversation, by which we both transcend ourselves and are enlarged…. It is in this way that reading becomes an act of meditation, with all of meditation’s attendant difficulty and grace. I sit down. I try to make a place for silence. It’s harder than it used to be, but still, I read.

— David L. Ulin, The Lost Art of Reading, p. 150-151

Why We Read Jane Austen

The art and passion of reading well and deeply is waning, but Austen still inspires people to become fanatical readers. We read Austen because she seems to know us better than we know ourselves, and she seems to know us so intimately for the simple reason that she helped determine who we are both as readers and as human beings.

— Harold Bloom, Foreword, A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen, edited by Susannah Carson