The Neev Literature Festival is an annual festival organized to find and showcase great children’s books from India and about Indian lives. There are an impressive number of children’s books featured in the Neev Literature Festival that are mirrors, windows, and doors to the Indian identity. This year, the festival was held virtually.
We had the unique opportunity to be in a book club that showcased a fantastic book- “Reader Come Home” by Maryanne Wolf as part of this Literature festival. The book club spanned three weeks and had various experts share their thoughts and perspectives about the book. It concluded with a special talk by the author of the book as well. Here are some of highlights that we would like to share with the MIS community.
The book club started off by reading the first three chapters of
Reader Come Home” by Maryanne Wolf.
This book is written in the form of letters, to the reader, to describe her concerns and her hopes about what is happening to the reading brain as it unavoidably changes to adapt to digital mediums. According to Maryanne, “Human beings were never born to read. The very act of learning to read added a whole new circuit to our hominid brain’s repertoire. As time progressed, the long developmental process of learning to read deep and well, changed the very structure of that circuit’s connection, which rewired the brain which transformed the nature of human thought.”
She also admits that virtual learning is now a necessity even though it promotes fast, shallow reading as opposed to the need of the hour- slow, deep reading. She emphasizes that “The quality of how we read depends on the choices we make in the time we allocate to the processes of deep reading.” How do we encourage and inculcate deep reading, discussions and reflection to ensure learners make connections, feel empathy, question the text as well as their own thinking, look at different perspectives and learn to understand that there can be and should be diverse viewpoints? That is essential for the very fabric of democracy and humanity.
It was a very relevant and apt topic, especially in the times of virtual learning as we are tasked with the promotion of deep reading in the virtual world. At the end of the first week’s reading, the book club met with Aruna Sankaranarayanan, an Author and Psychologist who shared her thoughts and perspectives on the first three letters in the book.
The second week the club read chapters 4-6 and met with Katie Day, A Children’s Literature Specialist. Her thoughts and ideas on how books shape the young minds of today and the importance of balancing digital literacy with physical books was indeed eye opening.
Just before the last week, the NLF was able to get the author Maryanne Wolf to the book club as well. It was inspiring to see the person behind this book and to hear her talk so passionately about her inspiration and her life stories about reading. She shared her joys, her despairs, her successes, her failures, and her hopes for instilling a love for reading in children. Her experiences and her scientific inquiries into understanding the science of reading that happens in the brain is truly a magical read. She has left no stone unturned to promote what she feels is essential for human existence and even democracy- reading. And it is our job as teachers and parents and educators to make this magic happen for them.
In the final week, the group ended by reading chapters 6-8 and met with Sujata Noronha, an Early Literacy Specialist. She emphasized the need for reading in young learners and the importance of physical books.
There could not have been a better book to read during this rather unique time in our lives. We loved being part of this book club and are grateful to have had this opportunity as ELA teachers. We hope you find these resources as inspiring as we did.
By Namrata Kulkarni and Varsha Tripathi
PYP ELA Teachers