Thinking About Reading

Teachers prattle on about reading comprehension strategies; about vocabulary and monitoring your understanding and rereading and summarizing. I read to enjoy books. When I read, the words scamper across my brain, leaving illustrations behind. I picture the worlds I read about, I envision myself there, and I wonder what it would be like to live there. I cannot fully experience a book without immersing myself in it.

When I teach reading, I am tempted to say, “Go read,” and leave it at that. About half my class would happily do so. Some would struggle through whatever they think I want them to read, or whatever their friends are reading. Some would open the book and stare blankly at the pages, never turning them. And some would read the words, just the words, and never take a moment to think about what the words are saying.

Thinking about reading is a skill that must be practiced, and like any such skill is initially a chore. Once you have mastered thinking while you read, you will find that books have a much deeper meaning. Keep in mind that the author had a purpose in writing the book, whether to inform, entertain, or persuade. The author also has a theme: friendship, loyalty, family, or determination. By the time you finish the book, you should be ‘getting’ what the author is trying to say about the theme: the author’s message. Is the author trying to tell you not to lie to your friends? To be loyal to them? That family will always have your back? Or that you can achieve success if you never give up? I’m sure you have all read books or stories with those messages and themes. A YA urban fantasy coming out this month, The Apocalypse Gene, was definitely written to entertain. It is a complex book with a lot of potential messages. To me, the book is about friends supporting each other to overcome adversity. (read my full review of the book on October 7, and buy your own copy October 17)

While reading, think about the characters. Do they remind you of anyone you know? How about other book characters, or movie characters? Themes are recurring, so if one book has a hero who has lost his parents, chances are other books will, too. Comparing and contrasting these characters helps you understand the deeper significance of a book. In The Apocalypse Gene, Olivya and her mother are desperately trying to make ends meet in a difficult world. Olivya’s father is dead, and she cannot forgive him for leaving her. This is a familiar setup for anyone who has read young adult literature. The male lead, Mikah, is growing up around adults who have a terrible, important secret. This, too, is familiar to young adult readers.

During the novel, consider events, too. If you put yourself in the character’s place, will the situation seem similar? Olivya and Mikah live in a future world scarred by pandemic. That part will seem like fantasy. But Olivya’s mother bans her from the computer as a punishment. THAT will seem familiar to young readers. And no matter how annoying her mother is, Olivya is devastated to discover that her mother has cancer. That revelation will resonate with readers of all ages.

So when you buy your copy of The Apocalypse Gene, read it carefully and think about what you are reading. There are personal themes, teen themes, religious themes, end-of-the-world themes waiting for you to discover them. Read, enjoy, and discuss here!

In paperback (loaned to me by a student): Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior by Chris Bradford

13 responses to “Thinking About Reading”

  1. Submitted on 2011/10/03 at 9:11 am

    I’m glad you are enjoying Young Samurai.
    In any case, I am looking foward to read Apoc. Gene. I have mulled over this for a bit, and discovered that most books cover a similar format to Harry Potter – A trio, duo, or a group of five people as the main character’s group, and usually with a rival for the main character with a polar opposite/similar attitude in personality.
    Though I admit it is a good format, it is quite annoying to read a repeat of the same basic personality and character conflict.

  2. Submitted on 2011/10/03 at 1:17 pm

    Albert, how astute your are! Another repeated theme in Urban Fantasy covers is the fierce woman ALWAYS tattooed. It does get monotonous. Apoc-G is unconventional is many ways, including the lack of a love triangle, though there is romance. Can’t wait to hear what you think. You’re obviously VERY bright.

  3. Submitted on 2011/10/03 at 1:41 pm | In reply to Suki Michelle.

    Suki, please stop encouraging Albert! lol, just kidding (You’re right, he IS very bright) 🙂

    1. Submitted on 2011/10/03 at 2:01 pm | In reply to mrsulleseit.

      Don’t worry, Mrs. Ulleseit – I can’t get ‘cocky’ because I have far too many misgivings to actually be such praised. I am truthfully considerably lazy, physically lacking in strength or exercise. And don’t even get me started on my handwriting.
      A lack of a love triangle should be interesting – Its rare to have a romance book without a love triangle/square/pentagon/etc. Or at least a book with romance, anyway.
      In any case, I am unfortunately addicted to fanfiction(Another bad factor) And one of my favorite fanfiction writers wrote stories that threw out the trio-duo-group idea.
      He put HARRY POTTER in a VILLAN SCHEME and put him in a SCI-FI FUTURE WORLD WHERE THERES NO MAGIC! Whats even more incredible that he developed an entire government system, ship/weapon ranking system, and basically a entire world of different factions while only using spells, Harry Potter’s name(Because quite honestly, he looks different, acts different, and is completely different) and the names of planets.
      Sorry about the rant. Oh, and Mrs. Ulleseit, you should add a italics function so I don’t have to use capital letters. 😛

      1. Submitted on 2011/10/03 at 4:01 pm

        Wow Albert. You are a BRAIN CREATURE, and that’s what I call Carlyle so it’s a high compliment. Sorry, Mrs. Ulleseit. I can’t help myself. The future just might be awesome with kids like this.

      2. Submitted on 2011/10/03 at 7:00 pm | In reply to Suki Michelle.

        I completely agree, Suki!

      3. Submitted on 2011/10/04 at 8:40 am | In reply to Suki Michelle.

        Uh, Carlyle? o.O

      4. Submitted on 2011/10/04 at 5:20 pm | In reply to mrsulleseit.

        Holy cow, ALBERT, I so want to shake your hand right now because I read fanfiction too! It’s like the only thing I read, it’s so nice to hear about someone who doesn’t turn up their nose at that word.

        That fanfic sounds a lot like Ender’s Game, have you read that? It’s a sci-fi too, rather young kid who gets sent up into space to be trained into kid armies, all that good stuff. (What fanfic is that anyways? There are very few non-magic AUs out there. o_o)

        You should TOTALLY read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, it’s the best best best best thing ever, it’s the most reviewed fanfiction on the entire freaking Internet. Basically Harry grew up as a scientist, with a scientific mind so when magic comes into play he ends up analyzing every single little thing. It’s SO FUNNY, why are you still reading this, you should read it right now. It’s very long, and sadly still a work in progress, but read it anyways!

      5. Submitted on 2011/10/05 at 10:38 am | In reply to mrsulleseit.

        I’ve read a good bulk of entertaining fanfiction – I <3 Chaos Legion's sign! Its hilarious, and I can't believe Herimone named her army Sunshine Regiment! Oh, and it goes by ‘The Star Empire,’ be careful of extremely bloody scenes and mature things. I avoid them since I’m young, though I don’t know about you. But still, its awsome.

      6. Submitted on 2011/10/06 at 10:09 am | In reply to aline.

        Aline, Carlyle is Suki’s co-author on The Apocalypse Gene. 🙂

    2. Submitted on 2011/10/03 at 3:58 pm | In reply to mrsulleseit.

      Tee hee, it’s what I DO!

  4. Jeannette Tetz Avatar
    Jeannette Tetz

    Submitted on 2011/10/09 at 7:21 pm

    Great review, can’t wait to take a peek. It is well written Young Adult stories that feed the imaginations and create life-long readers.

    1. Linda Ulleseit Avatar
      Linda Ulleseit

      Submitted on 2011/10/09 at 7:46 pm | In reply to Jeannette Tetz.

      You’ll enjoy this one, Jeannette!

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