Sunday, August 1

The Readers at Jury Duty

I had jury duty this week.  Well, not really because I wasn’t chosen.  I had “wait duty.”

When I hit the three hour mark of waiting. I began observing the reading habits of my fellow potential jurors.  The room was populated with people of all ages.  It was quite a sampling of our society.  There seemed to be about 100 people in the drab room.  As I looked around, I wondered about the reading habits and history of my fellow jurors.

Some people read newspapers and seemed to move their heads up and down as they glanced about the pages without ever landing long on any one item. 

Others were flipping the pages of magazines as they scanned the articles and looked at pictures. 

Many were engaged in novels and barely moved at all.  I tried to see the covers of the novels and mostly observed male mystery authors.  There were equal numbers of hardbacks and paperbacks.  I only counted one kindle – no iPads. 

Of those surrounding me, about ¼ of them were wearing headphones.  Only four of us were on laptops (I was the only Mac) and there was only one netbook.  I lost track of those that were napping or texting on their phones.
 
While I nonchalantly observed those around me, (I know it isn’t polite to stare) I wondered what their experiences were like in elementary school.  Some readers were so engaged that nothing could distract them.  There were a smattering of foot shakers and fidgety ones who seemed to have trouble sitting still.  There were the “jumpers” who kept jumping up and down, changing seats, getting drinks and going to the bathroom.  (I won’t mention the gum chewers, but I was thankful for my ear phones.)

What experiences did the engaged readers have that caused such complete stillness?  Was it the book they were reading?  Were they the fortunate ones who had great teachers who showed them that a novel was a joyful and totally engrossing experience?

Did some find their own path to enjoying reading after suffering through the drill and kill worksheets of their elementary classrooms? 

As I watched some flip about aimlessly, I wondered if they struggled with comprehending what they read.  Did their eyes scan back and forth, but they had no idea what the passage meant when they got to the end?   I so wanted to go ask and offer to help.

I am preparing for the new school year and my goal is to remember that the way I teach reading can affect my students' habits for a very long time... 


It is a precious responsibility.





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