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What is reading? The View and The Perspective

One of my most favorite rituals, one that I commit to every weekend during the school year and every day in summer is a long walk with my dog, Arthur. Arthur is a nine-year-old Hungarian Vizsla mix and he is, in a word, perfect. He is more than that, but absolutely that. We wake up before 6 am, stretch, get ready and head out. During the school year, these walks take us along the New Jersey side of the Hudson River path. No matter the day, I am always struck by competing thoughts: the view of New York City is breathtaking and the trash littered at my feet is upsetting.

I stand in the same place, at the same moment, and I have two equally true and equally opposing ideas.

Over the past year, I’ve read more and more commentary and ideas about what reading truly is. These fights are called the reading wars. They are tangled and complex. They are personal to many. Far more knowledgeable folks than me have written more deeply than I can muster. If you haven’t read their writings you should (see links below for only a few).

What I can share is that I do not divorce reading from meaning-making. Ever. I’ve supported too many striving and below benchmark and disengaged readers to ever believe reading is solely solving words. I also know that children deserve to be taught how to figure out the meanings of words. I know children deserve access to high-quality, fresh and relevant texts. Those conditions are ones I control and I dedicate my time to them.

I think, for me, the reading wars come down to your view, your perspective. I know I can stand in the exact same place, at the exact same moment, and have two equally true and equally opposing ideas.

My weekend walks remind me of this on a regular basis.

Worthy Reads...

Shawna Coppola, The Educator Collaborative

National Council of Teachers of English

Lucy Calkins, Teachers College Reading and Writing Project

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