Looking for some great summer reads? School Library Connection’s own Paige Jaeger challenges you to look beyond those light-hearted, easy-to-read, beachside paperbacks and instead try a little “reading up.” Tweet us @SLC_online with a picture of your own challenging book for the beach this summer with the hashtag #ReadUpChallenge.
There’s this (unofficial) librarian law that says, “When a movie is released, you are not allowed to see it until after you read the book.”
We’ve all been there. So, last winter when the movie In the Heart of the Sea was released, I resolved to read the book before seeing the movie and I also decided to re-read Melville’s Moby Dick. They were my “beach reads” for a winter vacation. There was also an element of wanting to go back and remedy the error-of-my-ways as I recollect taking the short cut for Moby Dick in high school.
Both books were a challenge for me. Although I did not find them difficult, it was predictable to have to look up a word on every-other page in Melville’s book—and I like to think I have a large vocabulary. Some of the sea-faring tier-three vocabulary was new to me, and cultural references of the 1800s I had to ponder. At times I felt “out of my element.”
Catching up on professional journal reading, I came across a brilliantly written piece by Tom Newkirk, espousing that we should “read like wedding crashers.” When crashing a wedding, we are out of our element—where we are not comfortable or intended to be: “It’s an act of impersonation, of seeming to know things you don’t. It’s knowing just enough to get by, to pass.”
This brilliantly written article paints a scenario where we’ve all been before: “Reading up” or, in other words, reading more difficult texts that require thought, digestion, discussion, and at times deliberation. For me, it’s like reading an instruction manual. When do we read them? When something’s wrong and we’re trying to fix it—before we phone the repairman. Or, it’s like reading an article written for physicians, while seeking an answer. The vocabulary used is above our normal comprehension level and comprehension requires “previous knowledge.” We’ve all been there—wedding crashing.
I really do love weddings. They give us the opportunity to celebrate, in the midst of our often problem-cluttered world. It gives me an opportunity to dress-up and shine and pretend to be something I’m usually not: beautiful, put-together, consuming food others have prepared, and dancing until the night is young.
The message in Newkirk’s article is that every educator should “read up” or “read like a wedding crasher.” We need to experience our students’ frustration when they face a text that is hard or, for some, nearly incomprehensible. Ask yourselves the questions: Do you have the fortitude to stick with it? The reading stamina to finish? When’s the last time we felt that pride which comes from completion and comprehension of a difficult book? The intrinsic reward of tackling a difficult task and the new knowledge that you discover along the way is your prize.
After completing In the Heart of the Sea, I have no desire to see the movie as I can’t imagine how they will handle the cannibalism. But…I do desperately want to visit Nantucket.
Paige Jaeger, MLIS, is a prolific author and prominent educational consultant, delivering professional development at the local, state, and national levels on inquiry-based learning, the CCSS, and the C3 framework. Previously, she was a library administrator serving 84 school libraries in New York.