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[Xmca-l] Re: A Question about Reading and Motivation

Michael - first, many thanks for pointing out that the joy of reading is much much more than just reading for information.  i was sloppy in my singular use of the term "information", particularly in these days of high stakes testing where comprehending "informational texts" is so highly regarded.  i was using "information' in the sense of finding out about and exploring the world that one is really interested in  -  an yes, i'm working with a second grader who values reading as a way to learn everything about Justin Bieber.  she's enthralled by the notion of a penthouse, where he lives.

and really, discovering story world of Virginia Woolf's in the early 60's saved my ass.


Phillip White, PhD
Urban Community Teacher Education Program
Site Coordinator
Montview Elementary, Aurora, CO
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of MICHAEL W SMITH [mwsmith@temple.edu]
Sent: Monday, September 09, 2013 11:04 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: A Question about Reading and Motivation

My research with adolescents suggests that the joy of reading includes, but
is not limited to the comprehension of information as the responses from
one 8th grade girl illustrates.  She does indeed talk about the pleasure of
learning information that she can put to use: “And then, using it? I guess
I just have a lot of the stuff, just sort of in my brain and then when that
kind of subject comes up, they’ll need the information I have. And then, I
can usually just tell people, ‘Oh, I just read this book, and it turns out
yadda-ya’ or sometimes I won’t even tell them I read the book. I’ll just
say, ‘Did you know?’ or ‘Oh I heard about that.’"

She also talks about the pleasure of entering a story world, which seems to
be something different than the way comprehension is traditionally
understood:  “ I get bored with my life sometimes. Not like super bored,
like midlife crisis bored, but just reality gets boring sometimes and its
cool to think about other stuff. I’m reading *The Clan of the Cave Bear*,
the second one, and it’s cool cuz it’s not everyday life, it’s something I
haven’t experienced, but I’m sort of semi-experiencing it.”

Because she semi-experiences what the characters do, she can use her
reading to think about her life:  “Sometimes when, like, big stuff happens
in my life, I’ll think about what my favorite character would have done,
the ones I admire most. Also, sort of subconscious. I don’t stop and think
about what someone would do, it’s just something that happens. Like, I bet
so-and-so would be really brave about this, or, one of my favorite
characters would have totally sped after this guy. And then sometimes I
follow their example and sometimes I don’t. . . . They all have different
approaches, different ways they approach things, and then I try to apply
that to my life, to see which way works for me. Characters are just ways of
thinking, really.”

Sometimes the pleasure she describes seems to be a more detached
intellectual pleasure:  “I like to think also about what the author could
have written instead of what they did write, like different endings, like a
dramatic part, I’ll stop and think about what could happen next, and then
read and see what does happen. I just finished reading one, and it’s got a
really cliffhanger ending, and I haven’t bought the next book yet, and I’m
coming up with all these ideas about what happened next.”

And finally, she talks about the pleasure she gains from using her reading
to deepen her relationship with others:  “When I take [the books] home,
actually I start reading my book on the car ride back from the book store
most of the time. My dad and I always go to Baja Fresh after the book
store, because it’s right there and pretty good Mexican food. We have an
inside joke, we say,  ‘Are we going to eat like people or are we going to
read and eat at the same time,’ and I say, ‘Dad, shush I’m reading.’”

The young people we talked to were remarkably articulate about the variety
of ways they  took joy from reading.


Michael W. Smith
Professor and Chair
Department of Teaching and Learning
Temple University
College of Education
351 Ritter Hall
1301 Cecil B. Moore Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19122