Recently, I was reading about the Art of Close Reading. The premise of the three part series is reading well involves thinking about what one is reading and the necessity of readers to take ownership of the material being read. The series continues to talk about strategies for reading carefully and closely, but when the writer made this comment, “Every book we read is a potential teacher,” he lost me to any of the academic argument he was making because I started thinking about all the books I read and what I learn from them.
I learn a lot of facts and technical items from textbooks, manuals, journal articles, critiques, and reviews. I learn how to make pictures in my head, how to capture human emotions, and how to be empathetic from a wealth of poetry. I learn about the capacity of humans, both good and evil, from all the mysteries I love so much. I continue to learn about friendship every time I read about Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh, and Piglet. I learn what can make me happy and what can make me sad when I read a novel. I learn about myself in almost everything I read by the connections I make and the words that are the most meaningful to me.
I sometimes lose sight of the power of a book to teach because I become so focused on trying to encourage folks to read, trying to help students become effective strategic readers, and trying to help students find the right book to read or for that matter, encouraging students to just read. In all my focusing and trying and encouraging, I sometimes forget how each of us can learn from a book and we may each learn something a little differently. The book might be the same, but the readers are all different, and it is our differences that makes the close and careful reading of books so interesting.