"Life lessons live in fiction. Reading a book takes us inside a time, a place, or an idea." (p. 22)
I remember working with a group using a poem from "Baseball, Snakes and Summer Squash" written by Donald Graves. The poem focused on the speaker's difficulty learning multiplication facts. The students shared predictions, visualizations and connections written on post-it notes. In the middle of the conversation, I realized that, despite these strategies, none of them understood what was going on in the poem. They grasped just bits and pieces but not enough for any real meaning.
This is not a knock on teaching comprehension strategies. I believe reading strategies are important tools to teach and use. A disconnect existed, though, for some students, especially in the upper grades. I observed a lot of discussions. I talked with teachers. It dawned on me (I can be slow, sometimes) that these kids were reading passively, even with strategies. They read without being "in the book." Ohh! They were missing as Kittle says "The power of a reading life."
I began to talk about my reading life. I explained my experiences of being whoever that character was or the feeling that I was part of the story. I shared important characters who felt like/are real people enabling me to fee and see the world through their eyes. I admitted that many of these characters were my friends.I talked about places and things I learned about just through reading. And how I would write letters in my head to authors if I disagreed with a decision they had made in their writing. Or, how I carry certain book scenes with me always and how they have an impact on my thinking and my actions.
I learned, as Kittle says with such conciseness and clarity: "It is through the complexity of the story that we can be changed." This is what we need to show our students.