Sunday, August 8, 2010

Nomadic Reading in a Standards-Based World

I have never really given much thought about how I get ready to read, but tonight as I went in search of a copy of David Foster Wallace's, Everything and More: A Short History of Infinity and failed to secure a copy, I realized that in lieu of the real deal, I am reading and talking about the book.

I first became interested this afternoon as I listened to my husband read aloud sections of the text from a copy of the book he is reading. It caught me ear. Then we talked about what he had read aloud and ideas we each had about mathematics. We talked a lot through the next few hours, off and on. Then I read a few reviews on line, abandoning some as I read and rereading others. Next, we went off in search of the book at two book stores and came up empty. I returned to the Internet found the opening of the text on Google books and read it and then read blogs that mentioned the text and I found myself cycling back to read more reviews. In one blog, I found a photograph of  David Foster Wallace reading, an image I had seen before, and this time I wondered what his voice might have sounded like. This stilled me and I wondered why he took his life.

All of these musings will (in)form how I read, stirring my imagination and readying me (perhaps) for when the book arrives on Tuesday and I open it. I imagine/anticipate that time when I come home from work to find the book has arrived and think about how I will spend that first night reading and writing in the margins, as this is a text where I most likely will want to write--will have something to say and to question.

So thinking about how I am approaching this text nudges me to consider how reading is situated in high school and wondering if room can be made so that possibilitites of reading stances are afforded to learners. It seems important to recognize that there are times when we ready ourselves to read and certainly times when we do not. Reading actions can be informed via an infinite number of possibilities and conditions and it is just staggering that any group could somehow contain such openness within a set of common core state standards that describe the conditions and outcomes of reading for all learners across 13 years. How could any group anticipate such vastness? How could anyone define, univocally, literate behavior?

The opening statement of the Common Core State Standards' mission says: "The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them." Oddly, when I read these standards, there was no mention I could find that suggests that pre-reading exists, let alone is desirable.

Tonight I wonder how any group can purport to know so much, when the possibilities of action/inaction that precede the arrival of the next book I plan to read are infinite? The path before me is largely nomadic; one that I am claiming and making simultaneously, and consider that I haven't even gotten to hold the book in my hands. What might happen to learners if instead of constructing epic certainties as a positive and sought outcome, we conceptualized curriculum as a road to make, not a determined path all must follow? Consider the possibilities that would immediately be opened.

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