Re: Defining Reading

by Jim Burke

I had the great pleasure of a long conversation with Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein last weekend while in Chicago. In addition to discussing our forthcoming high school edition of “They Say/I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, we spoke of a problem we all agreed is a serious one in American education and to which we have each given much thought in recent years: the “mixed messages” students receive from teachers and schools as they move from grade to grade. They discuss this issue in some detail in an “Immodest Proposal to Connect High School and College.” What one teacher calls “Academic Language” another calls “rhetorical style,” and a third calls something else, and so on, leading to what one contributor in the “Immodest Proposal” symposium mentioned above calls the “Volleyball Effect.” With the Common Core comes a whole new set of debates about not just what students should read but how. As Gerald Graff emphasizes in this section of the Common Core, it is argument that one must not only be able to construct when writing or speaking but to notice and make sense of while reading.

Few words suffer this fate of being redefined more than the word “reading,” so I thought I would gather all that I could in one post by way of staging my own little symposium on academic reading. For the record, this is what I think “academic vocabulary” means.

I will no doubt add more to this nice list of meditations on reading, but for now will invite you to read, enjoy, and enter the conversation these texts all encourage us to enter.





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