I keep hearing from teens and occasionally older readers, about their dislike of reading as a leisure activity. When I probe for reasons why, I’m told that it was English class and the assigned reading that turned some folks off.
This makes me wonder if book groups aren’t guilty of the same “overreading” of books in an effort to get readers to “understand” all the nuances, metaphors, meaning, and, oh, all of it.
I hope not. I’d like to think it doesn’t happen in my book groups. It’s why I try to offer a balanced mix of Great Reads thoughtful reading, graduate seminar level discussion, and entertaining conversation, with tidbits from “behind the book.”
It was a post from English teachers on the English Companion Ning pondering how best to teach literature to students and get them to appreciate the work without loathing the reading that brought these musings on.
Some of the suggestions the teachers tossed out to get the students involved in the reading were great ones to use in a book discussion. I picked up two new questions to ask. One is a conversation starter, “What did you understand about this book?” and one is a conversation ender, “What are the lessons here?” These may sound academic, but they’ll be different from my usual topics.
And the most valuable tip from the teachers? Talk less. Let the participants do all the talking.