When I think back to my K-12 school years, I cannot think of many times when teachers used trade books in content area classrooms. In general, English was the only class in which we read anything other than textbooks. Perhaps that’s why, when a science teacher used texts other than textbooks, I grew interested in science for the first time. My 12th grade AP environmental science teacher started out the course by assigning us to read and respond to Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild. As a lover of nonfiction, I started out the course engage and interested in the material. She is the only teacher that I remember using “trade books” in the content area classroom.
I found Probst’s description of transactional reading to be thought-provoking and convincing. The power of reading, in his opinion, is with the reader. He writes, “Reading should not be an effort to suppress the personal and idiosyncratic in a search for a purified reading, uncontaminated by the reader’s individuality. Transactional theory insists that the reader’s individuality must be respected and considered, that readers initially understand a work only on the basis of prior experience” (Probst 379). To me, this is a fresh and encouraging perspective on reading that offers teachers the reassurance that there’s always a place to start–with students’ prior knowledge.
The fact that I’m a future English teacher makes it easy to conceive of using non-textbook reading in my classroom. In fact, I would never choose to use a textbook in my classroom, except for things like supplementing a mini-lesson, for example. I was particularly interested in the textbook’s description of performance responses to trade books to enhance comprehension. I can see myself using strategies like these in my classroom to “heighten understanding of the often dense and complex expository material found in today’s nonfiction” (Vacca, Vacca, & Mraz 390). Many of the techniques detailed in the readings will be useful as I seek to improve reading comprehension in my classroom with trade books. RCA2011.