More Ways to Write About Reading

I was recently asked by a 4th grade teacher for some assistance in establishing reader’s notebooks with her students.  “Sure,” I replied, while searching through my bookshelf for my own dusty and neglected reader’s notebook.  Before talking to her students about how they might use a reader’s notebook, I had to reacquaint myself with mine.  Here are some of the ways I’ve been writing about my reading lately:
In an effort to better understand “close reading”, I have been paying particular attention to my own thinking while reading.  When I have an inkling of an idea, I have been rereading to collect details and evidence around my idea. While reading Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, I began thinking about how Jacqueline Woodson’s mother must have felt about living in Ohio versus living in South Carolina.  I sensed a sort of conflict within her about having two separate places to call home.   I stopped at this point in my reading to go back and collect details about each place.  Then, I did some writing about my new idea.
Brown Girl Dreaming Close 1
Brown Girl Dreaming Close 2
Brown Girl Dream Close 3
 It was really interesting to note how much my thinking changed after reading more closely.
Here, you will see me thinking about theme and how it is conveyed through the details in a book.  After reading the picture book Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles, I wrote a statement about the theme.  I wrote, “Sometimes you have to do what is right, even though it is hard.”  Then, I went back to the text to collect evidence about doing “what is right” and to collect evidence that showed “it was hard.”  I used the key words from my statement about theme to guide me.
Finally, this is an image that I just had to stop and record in my reader’s notebook.  It, too, is from Brown Girl Dreaming.  “In downtown Greenville,/they painted over the white only signs,/except on the bathroom doors,/they didn’t use a lot of paint/so you can still see the words, right there/like a ghost standing in front/still keeping you out” (from page 92.)  This image was so powerful to me; I had to capture it in my notebook forever.
I remember now why it is important to keep a reader’s notebook.  I found myself thinking more deeply about each of these texts after I wrote about them in my notebook.  I feel more confident about talking to kids about a reader’s notebook, and I am looking forward to exploring notebooks together.
For more information on reader’s notebooks, please check out our Writing about Reading Blog Series from last January and also Tara’s post from last week: Setting Up the Reading Journal for a Year of Writing About Reading.