July 12, 2016

“Connecting” to the Transformative Power of Reading

Print Friendly

Since the Common Core Standards were introduced, educators have been debating the role that text-to-self connections play in students’ reading.  Initially, the message was “Students must read within the ‘four corners’ of the text. Connections don’t matter.” Fortunately, much of the educational community understood that this directive was an over correction in response to a legitimate concern that text-to-text connections had supplanted text-based responses almost completely. While we agree that there is a need to turn considerable attention towards the “four corners of the text,” more than ever, we recognize the power of personal connections with text. Most importantly, we see the ways these personal connections actually lead to deeper understanding of the words on the page.

For example, this morning, in an independent reading conference Kendra, a fifth-grade girl reading Kate di Camillo’s Because of Winn Dixie, expressed that reading the book felt especially good to her because it helped her understand something she had never experienced in her own life.  Kendra spoke about the character, Amanda, whose younger brother, Carson, had drowned. Kendra explained, “I don’t know anybody who ever drowned but I do know that it sadly happens.  I get why Amanda is always acting so moody.  It’s like she’s clouded in sadness. If I lost someone who I cared about, that’s exactly how I’d feel, too.”

While authors layer the “four corners of text” with rich details and ideas meant for readers to read closely and understand,  very often, their higher purpose for doing this is to communicate something important about the human condition. When readers marry those details and ideas with their background knowledge and preconceived understandings of the world, they receive entrée to a new level of understanding. The potential connection to their deeper empathy and humanity is what sends the powerful message that reading is not just a thing that you do for school or to pass time, but rather, it is that thing you do because is transformative.


  1. Kim and Jan and Jeannette.
    I agree with you, so much Jeannette. There’s a discovery that happens inside a good book, one that we sometimes can’t grasp immediately. I love this idea that reading can be transformative, too. For sure, I’m a better person because I have had the chance to live many lives through books, to experience ideas and emotions that have deepened my understanding of other people and of myself. So much of why I read has to do with wanting more of those experiences that transcend Me and Mine to include some goodly portion of Thou. I want kids to have that experience, too.

  2. Jeannette says:

    I think connections are so important. Author’s write because they want their readers to feel something. Sometimes kids are not even sure what to feel, however, it can start with a connection and develop into something thoughtful and deep for a reader like what happened with Kendra. I love that.

Speak Your Mind