So, how do we comprehend what we read? And what to we do when we don't understand the meaning of a text, any text, including blogs, films, conversations? I ask these questions because I am about to embark on a difficult and possibly rewarding journey that will require a lot of work on my part and will inevitably stall all of the other projects I have started in the past several months. Luckily, I have been feeling disgruntled and blue a lot of the time lately, so I haven't really put too many irons in the fire, as is my habit. I intend to up the ante in the library. Instead of bringing classes to simply get book recommendations and check out books, how about bringing classes to LEARN A READING SKILL and then get book recommendations and check out books? Sounds radical, does it not?
The idea is this. When teachers sign up to bring their classes, I find out what the kids are doing in all of the content areas. So let's say they are studying post Civil War America in Social Studies. I can then prepare a lesson/activity on, say, historical fiction about that time period in which the students will learn to read heavily accented dialogue or dialect. We don't think about it much, but at one point in our lives, we didn't know how to tackle words that some crazy author deliberately misspelled! So I can teach them, using an exciting passage from an exciting book, and then - BAM! - I can recommend more books of that genre and get them reading something new and challenging.
Seriously, this may sound obvious, but it's just not been the way things have worked. So far in my life as a librarian, the only lessons I really get to teach are outside the purview of other classes. Things relating to technology usually, or maybe using reference materials. But a straight-up Language Arts skill? I haven't directly taught one of those in years. And I love to! Usually teachers aren't too interested in having their material usurped.
What I need to ponder now is what types of reading comprehension skills will fit this model. Some ideas that come to minds are:
- dialect and accented dialogue
- the nonsense vocabulary of Sci Fi and futuristic fiction
- the use of textual clues (like italics or page breaks) to indicate flashback
- non-standard dialogue (few or no "he said" "she said" indicators
- textual clues indicating internal dialogue (again, often italics or parentheses)
- interpreting allusions to other, perhaps unknown, literary/historical/artistic works
I think this could be really cool.