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I have a problem…

I know this isn’t normal, but when I draw near to the last chapter of a book, I get a kind of panic in my stomach. I know that there are more books to read than I could ever possibly read, but what if I end up not having another book to start once I finish this book that I hold in my hands?!

It’s been a problem since childhood when I would lug a 20 lb. bag around with me to our family vacations containing 4-5 other books than the book I was currently reading, just in case. I never finished them all and almost never even finished the one that I was currently in the middle of when we left for vacation, but I was always prepared.

It proved cumbersome when I spent a year in Germany and had more books packed than I did clothes, but I couldn’t pass them up (even if it meant paying extra for how heavy they were) because I was so excited about being finished with graduate school and being able to read what I wanted to read again.

It’s a problem, but not right now because I have three books waiting on my bedside table!

I am Human

In reading Madeline L’engle’s Walking on Water, I was impressed by her honesty:

One of the things that I learned on the road back is that I do not have to be right. I have to try to do what is right, but when it turns out, as happens with all of us to be wrong, to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and to try, if possible, to make reparation. But I have to accept the fact that I am often unwise; that I am not always loving; that I make mistakes; that I am, in fact, human.

In my classroom, I always encouraged my students to try their hardest. I didn’t expect them to be right, but I did expect them to try their hardest and to preserve even when they were wrong. As their teacher, I saw this as a way of creating a safe environment for them to learn to fail, but also a way to challenge their developing confidence and to recognize the importance of community.

But I never took these ideas or words to heart. I was their teacher. I needed to be right and to do right for their sakes.

Maybe I was wrong after all.

Struggle Through

Maybe it’s the things we struggle through the hardest, that shape and form us.

Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and tak ea deal of telling anyway. THey stayed long in that good house, fourteen days at least, and they found it hard to leave. Bilbo would gladly have stopped there for ever and ever- even supposing a wish would have taken him right back to his  hobbit-hole without trouble. Yet there is little to tell about their stay.

Reflections on Year 2

The hardest part of the journey of seminary for me has been and will continue to be unearthing beliefs and challenge myself to ask why I believe what I believe. On top of that is asking myself how I read the Bible. Do I read with answers and ideas already in mind? Do I try to make the text say what I believe? Do I open myself up to the possibility that what I thought the Bible said, isn’t actually what it says?

This is not a faux tension that I am creating years in the future to make for a better story about my experiences as a freshman in college. This was a real problem for me. What I had to figure out was how to read the New Testament. Sure, I knew how to read it devotionally and how to read it in search of proof texts for beliefs I held, but to this point I did not know how to simply read the text before me and allow it to speak for itself.

Or do I read it like Pregeant suggests in his book Reading the Bible for All the Wrong Reasons to gain a better understanding of how individuals fit in and a play a role in the creative process started in Genesis?

With a couple of days left in the summer, I find myself anxiously awaiting for the long class hours and the deep discussions, which will inevitably cause me to think and rethink and rethink what faith means to me individually and as a part of a community.

Although I don’t know for certain where the journey will lead me, I do know for certain that my studies will lead me to an expanded and deeper view of myself and my Creator.

Seeing Straight

I’ve been teaching students who struggle with reading for the past six years and I have to say that each case is unique. There are some similarities between the different readers, but there is a uniqueness to each of their situations that warrants an individual intervention plan. 

One of the common problems I see is that struggling readers often know and understand what is expected of them in the context of classroom reading. They know what they are supposed to look like and so if they can’t solve the problems they are having with semantics or decoding, then they can at least solve the problem of looking like a reader. 

In these learned reading behaviors, there is an understanding among students when you get to a certain level, you are supposed to be able to read without tracking or running your fingers underneath the lines. So often struggling readers will imitate this behavior and further complicate their battle to understand what they are reading. 

I often used reading strips in my classroom, which I had on my desk and during reading conferences, I would just ask a student to try using it. They are a great size because they look like a bookmark, but they actually puts a transparent strip around the line the reader is reading while blocking out the lines above and below. 

It’s a simple intervention strategy that has worked wonders in my classroom. 

I Recommend….Reading

I’ll be the first to admit that I read books based on friend recommendations, not Amazon’s recommendations.

So when I read this:

But there may be a hope for aspiring writers, yet. Social networking is bringing the gatekeeper – the human recommendation – back to the forefront of culture consumption, and new models are cropping up to try and take advantage of this recent shift in online behavior.

With Facebook, Goodreads, and a host of newer sites designed to connect authors and musicians with their potential audiences, the pendulum has already started swinging back towards human intelligence and curated search, rather than artificial intelligence and ‘recommendation engines.’ People are becoming less interested in what a computer thinks they should like and more interested in what their friends recommend. If this sounds familiar, it means you’re probably old enough to remember going to a local record store and asking the owner to recommend you something good.

It made perfect sense to me. When someone posts or tells me about a good read and their recommendation has been spot on in the past, I am going to take them at their word and read!

Abandoning Books

I know from a teaching perspective that it’s important to teach students that it’s ok to abandon books. You don’t have to love every book that you put your hands on and you don’t have to finish every book that you start.

And I know that it’s important to model what you teach, but I still have a guilt conscience that follows me when I return a book that I haven’t finished. What if the borrower asked me something about the very part that I skipped or didn’t get through? What if?

I know it sounds silly, but my unnecessary stress over abandoning books might just be tied into classroom experiences where books were tested rather than taught. An environment in which characters’ names were to be memorized rather than enjoyed and plot line was to be mapped rather than be surprised by.

Maybe this little reminder that it is ok to say I don’t like a book is an important reminder to analyze the way that I teach reading.

Everyone wants something

Writing isn’t entering an unknown world.

Even in futuristic societies and the unknown worlds of Ender’s Games and Hunger Games, there is a connection that readers can make to the experiences the characters are having and the way that they are relating to one another.

Rosenblatt calls this a “living through” experience that enables readers to experience situations and feelings that they themselves might not be willing to admit they want to experience.

It’s hard for me to imagine that the templates I have seen for the Common Core Standards hold to this caliber of writing, but let’s not trust writers like Kurt Vonnegut, Louise Rosenblatt, Orson Scott Card or Suzanne Collins for our writing advice. Let’s stick with policymakers’ ideas of how to nurture developing writers.

What is the most effective evangelism?

Powerful ponderings from an open pastor:

Always, always, always, do not interpret scripture out of its original context. And I repeat: always, always, always do not interpret scripture out of its original context.

It would be very easy for us at this juncture to read Isaiah 53:1-6 into story of Jesus– to say that the Isaiah writer was actually giving us a prophetic message for what would happen in the incarnation of Christ thousands of years later. And, while yes, we can’t help but understand our reading of anything from Isaiah (and the other prophetic books for that matter) in light of the WHOLE story of the Bible as we read it cover to cover which includes the formation of a new Christian community, we can’t forget the context of the original hearers.

Interestingly, after taking a Spring class called The Cross, I can’t help but continuing to ask the same questions:

Was this, I wondered, what the gospel were really all about? Was the gospel something that can be melted down into a 5 step plan that makes children feel sorry for their sins knowing the Jesus replaced their punishment on the cross?

Maybe the most effect evangelism is being honest about what you are learning with your congregation.

Summer Reading

Having been released from the demands of 5 classes of reading, I’ve enjoyed the freedom to read from the long to read list that I’ve been building since January!

Here are a couple that I’ve read that I’d highly recommend:

  • Ender’s Game: I have to admit that I’ve never been into Sci-Fi, but I think it’s because I’ve never read the right authors. Ender’s Game is the perfect combination of Sci-Fi and futuristic society. I am ashamed to say that I confused it with Hunger Games thinking that they were closely related. They aren’t.
  • The World Made Straight: Ron Rash has always been on of my favorite authors because he writes about where I have been and what I know. In this book, he combines the story of where a community has been and where it is now. He weaves in entries from an old medical journal, which draws you into the world of the past as well as the world of the present.
  • The Penelopiad: A twist in the traditional Greek myth of Odysseus. True to form, Atwood gives the women in the story a voice and makes her readers question if the story they have always heard is right or not.

What have you been reading?