Last summer, my student asked me to recommend books for her to read and us to discuss. I gave her a list of books I thought she might enjoy – a range from teen fiction that I liked when I was her age to more mature novels. She chose “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. She bought the book and we agreed to read a chapter every week.
It didn’t quite go that way. The first two chapters went well. We read and discussed them. We talked about the main concepts present in the book. She asked questions when there were phrases she did not understand. The book has a lot of Capital Letters. Usually they are used for words that are being used differently from their regular use. I drew her attention to those and for the most part, she was able to deduce the usages.
Then came the third week – and she didn’t have time to read. And the fourth week. And the fifth. I asked her about her interest in the book and she claimed that she was very interested, but just didn’t have time to read and check the dictionary for the words she didn’t know.
Comprehension dawned. I hadn’t realized that is how she was reading it, but I guess I should have known.
So I said, “Okay. I want to try something different. Read it without the dictionary.” She looked dubious, but I convinced her that it would save her time and that it was not important to understand all the words or all the ideas. I told her not to take notes on things she didn’t understand.
The next week, she told me it took less time, but she thought she only understood about 50% of the chapter. However, she was able to have the same level discussion about it that we had before. We decided to keep doing it this way. This has been going on for a few weeks now and the chapters have flown by.
I asked her for feedback again today and she said it’s relaxing to read without the dictionary and she feels that she understands nearly 70% of what she reads. She wants to continue reading this way and she wants to find out what happens next in the book.
What I learned:
I learned that I need to be aware of how my students are approaching reading assignments.
I learned that reading can be more enjoyable when students choose the reading material themselves, reading limits are flexible (today’s homework: read as much as you can), and exact understanding of every single word is not required.
I learned that I need to convince my well-intending student that it is okay to read like this.