Thomas Newkirk is my new favorite author. I just finished reading The Art of Slow Reading, his current book. Yes, it’s about reading slow. But it’s more about reading with purpose, digging deeper, and falling into and in love with the text.
He speaks to my concerns with the emphasis on “fluency” (i.e. fast rate, not expression or prosody) as the true measure of a reader. I just don’t believe that knowing how fast a child reads tells us everything we need to know about our students as readers, even though we spend an inordinate amount of time assessing the “fluency” of our children these days.
Newkirk offers six ideas to help readers become more engaged with a text. Suggestions like memorization, marking text, and reading like a writer will indeed help make reading and books more memorable and life changing. His voice in the text is like someone – a friend – having a conversation with you, the reader. His words spoke to my mind and heart from page one.
Our district is going through reading textbook adoption this year. Our choices have been narrowed to two basal options. They both propose to have everything already done for teachers in their programs, making it so much easier and stress free. Who could resist that tempting offer? No more worries sounds great.
And so, I was open mouthed and in awe when I read his short essay on the contrarian view in writing that he included in the book. He addresses the current trend in education of purchasing programs that “do it all” for teachers and how they claim to reduce stress by taking away the decision making from teachers.
However, on the contrary, his essay asserts that research shows the workers with the most stressful jobs are not the top corporate officials who make crucial decision on a regular basis. The stressed out and unhappy workers are the ones who have lost their sense of agency. The ones who already have all the decisions and judgments made for them. All put together in a nice neat package.
This book speaks to so many issues of our time, in a thoughtful, positive manner. Thank you, Thomas Newkirk, for promoting what is right and good, and for having the talent and voice to explain it so well.