As soon as I saw a blurb about Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, I knew it was going to be compelling and would likely speak to matters that concern me deeply; I ordered it immediately. When I started reading, it felt like it was the book I had been waiting for! Below are a few reasons why.
Beers and Probst …
- articulate the problem.
In the Introduction, they report that a major impediment to “the deep learning we all want for students” … is apathy (9). This lack of interest and engagement is exactly what I have been observing more and more in recent years. The researchers (and those they interviewed) perfectly pinpointed what was causing my discouragement. I found it disheartening, but also comforting to know others were seeing and lamenting the same indifference in their students … and searching for solutions!
- provide a simple but thorough framework.
To combat this problem, the seasoned educators charge us with building responsive, responsible, and compassionate readers. I love these three words and ALL they encapsulate. While discouraged by the apathy of many students, I do believe in the power of reading to change lives. I felt I now had a new, more focused battle cry! Beers and Probst went on to form this powerful charge into a simple, direct framework – Book, Head, Heart Reading. Sold!
- tell what didn’t work.
The work of these two is so impactful, because they regularly visit classrooms, try things out, gain feedback from students, and report what does and doesn’t work. While experimenting with the process and working toward the framework, one student in a class asked, “Will you two be here all week?” (62) Hilarious! The reminder that even these master educators are constantly tweaking and present occasional lessons that bomb is a comfort for those of us who tend to ponder alternate careers each time things go awry!
- model how to use the framework across grade levels.
What a benefit to see the framework modeled with first, fourth, and eighth graders and even with a college freshman. As a middle school educator, I particularly enjoyed the 8th grade conversation and how one boy said, “It made my heart think.” Great reminder that even middle school boys (!!) enjoy making personal connections to the text, “taking things to heart,” and having the chance to talk with others about their discoveries.
- tackle topics head on.
The book ends with a call to evaluate many of our practices and to consider which truly benefit students and which need some disruption. When addressing some common practices, such as the use of whole class novels, Beers and Probst addressed them candidly and backed up their responses with research and practical observation. I love this point:
… on average teachers spend six to eight weeks reading a novel with students. Neither of us can think of one novel we want to read for eight weeks. If we love the book, we want to devour it. If we hate it, we want to quit reading or at least want the torture to end quickly (142).
Disrupting Thinking is book I was waiting for because it connected so many things I was observing, feeling, and pondering. I am passionate about the power of reading to spark curiosity, to encourage questions, to build empathy, to transform lives; Disrupting Thinking helped me bring it all together and renewed my zest for building lifelong readers!
If you, too, are interested in creating responsive, responsible, and compassionate readers (and people!), then read this book immediately. It will disrupt your thinking and give you much to ponder as you prepare for the young people that will be entrusted in your care this school year.
We argue that the ultimate goal of reading is to become more than we are at the moment; to become better than we are now; to become what we did not even know we wanted to become (59).