“Last Page, Lost Friend” Reading Quotes & The Reading Zone

Great Writers on Reading

“When I am reading a book, whether wise or silly, it seems to me to be alive and talking to me. Sometimes I read a book with pleasure, and detest the author. It is easy enough for a man to walk who has a horse at his command. The invalid is not to be pitied who has a cure up his sleeve. And such is the advantage I receive from books.

“They relieve me from idleness, rescue me from company I dislike, and blunt the edge of my grief, it if is not too extreme. They are the comfort and solitude of my old age. When I am attacked by gloomy thoughts, nothing helps me so much as the running to my books. They quickly absorb me and banish the clouds from my mind. And they don’t rebel because I use them only for lack of partimes more natural and alive. They always receive me with welcome.” ~Montaigne

“Let me read with method, and purpose to ourselves an end to what our studies may point. The use of reading is to aid us in thinking.” ~Edward Gibbon

“Books are to be called for and supplied on the assumption that the process of reading is not a half-sleep; but in the highest sense an exercise, a gymnastic struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself.” ~Walt Whitman

“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. The book exists for us perchance which will explain our miracles and reveal new ones. The at present unutterable things we may find somewhere uttered. These same questions that disturb and puzzle and confound us have in their turn occurred to all the wise men; not one has been omitted; and each has answered them according to his ability, by his word, by his life.” ~Henry David Thoreau

“Book love, my friends, is your pass to the greatest, the purest, and the most perfect pleasure that God has prepared for His creatures. It lasts when all other pleasures fade. It will support you when all other recreations are gone. It will last you until your death. It will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live.” ~Anthony Trollope

I found all the above quotes on the back of a book copyrighted in 1959, To Appomattox: Nine April Days. There was no information about the book at hand, just inspiring reading quotes from great writers.

In addition, I’ve been reading Nancie Atwell’s The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readersand I keep running across quotes I want to remember:

The goal is “to read for pleasure, but not for idleness; for pastime but not to kill time; to seek, and find, delight and enlargement of life in books.” ~Robertson Davies

In reading workshop, the delights are intrinsic, always: This week I got to experience a whole world with characters I loved; inside me I traveled, wondered, worried, laughed, cried, raged, triumphed. The passions aroused by stories and characters are the prize~Nancie Atwell

Frequent, voluminous, happy experiences with books — preferably in a room that’s filled with good ones and in the company of a teacher who knows how to invite and sustain a love of stories — are the way to teach and learn reading for a lifetime. ~Nancie Atwell

“The vicarious experience of reading can shape our essence, change us, just as firsthand experience can.”  ~Sydney Jourard

The Reader’s Bill of Rights

  1. The right not to read something
  2. The right to skip pages
  3. The right not to finish
  4. The right to reread
  5. The right to read anything
  6. The right to escapism
  7. The right to read anywhere
  8. The right to browse
  9. The right to read out loud
  10. The right to not defend your tastes

~Daniel Pennac

This afternoon I decided to claim my rights as a reader and I did a little skipping and browsing of the rest of The Reading Zone. I was disappointed in Chapter 5 on Comprehension. She argued against what’s been written on reading comprehension since Pearson’s research in 1985. That would include some of my favorite writers — who write primarily about using the comprehension strategies good readers use — Ellin Keene, Susan Zimmerman, Cris Tovani, and Stephanie Harvey. The strategies from Mosaic of Thought have made it into the Iowa Core–one of just two additions Iowa added to the Common Core Standards.

Nancie talked about connections with self, text, and world mostly in the negative sense, about the “irrelevant bumps” that come in to disturb the reading zone. Certainly there are some of those, but good readers know when their understanding breaks down, and they have fix-up strategies for getting back in the zone.

It’s true that strategy instruction is only important for a certain population of readers–the ones with decoding skills but aren’t using comprehension strategies. Proficient readers don’t need to be taught the skills because they already have them. That’s why her students rebelled at the sticky notes she required them all to write.

Overall, however, I gleaned many good ideas from The Reading Zone. I’m going to make some fairly radical changes in my language arts curriculum next year. More choice. Less quizzes, tests, and book projects. More reading homework and accountability. I believe my classes will be more relevant and rigorous than they’ve been in the past. Atwell’s book has some great resources–a list of openers to help students write their letter/essays in response to books, a list of questions to ask students during individual conferences, and a great two-page reading survey for the first day. This was a book worth the read/browse.

I’ll report back next year about how it’s going!

8 thoughts on ““Last Page, Lost Friend” Reading Quotes & The Reading Zone

  1. Again… I’m leaving a comment!
    First, just a quote from a book I love… “Stay Gold…” -Johnny in The Outsiders – Nothing to do with your post, but inspired by the other quotes!
    Second, “More choices, fewer quizzes, tests, and book projects…” These are what led me to Genius Hour. I hated the fact that I was doing more work than the students. Good luck with this – you and the students will benefit! Make sure you keep blogging about it! -Joy

    1. Thanks, Joy! Yes! As I read Atwell’s book, I kept seeing those reading logs, pulling teeth to get kids to read their book, and AR tests 🙁 And then the grading of those book projects. It was all wrong and I knew it! I’m excited to try a new more genius way of doing it.

      I like it when Johnny tells Ponyboy to stay gold. We read Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” when we read The Outsiders.

      I know you are doing Genius Hour during reading. Will you be doing Genius Hour with fiction and nonfiction? I’ll be excited to read about your experiences too.


  2. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on your blog. I have always loved readers workshop on my classroom. I haven’t done quizzes or tests on books in ages. I do love having daily book chats, where kids, in groups or pairs, take some time to share what they have read and talk about the books they have read and the strategies they use.

    So, what are the books you are planning to read this summer?
    For me, … To start…. A kids book… The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch
    Non-fiction … Drive by Daniel Pink

    1. Andy,
      Thanks for the comment and the encouragement. I will look forward to more book chats in my classroom next year; that is another area I have neglected.

      I have read a bunch of books already because I was on vacation for two weeks–lots of resting and reading! I have ten more on my To Read list on GoodReads. I guess I better prioritize them, though, because I don’t think I’ll get through them all. I’d be happy to get through Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner and John Adams by David McCullough.

      Thanks again for the visit! And for asking me what I was reading. It helped me pick two!

  3. When I read Nancie’s book, I actually liked that she took on the Pearson crew. It’s not that I take one side or the other, it’s that I often find merit on BOTH sides of contentious issues. Bottom line: I think Nancie sees merit in Pearson, too. Efferent reading for the sticky notes and pleasure reading… not.

    Probably some teachers went overboard with all the sticky assignments anyway. In that case, Nancie’s rejection was a bucket of cold water… a wake-up call of sorts. I still have kids mark up texts, but usually short ones. If they are going to be writing about a pleasure book, they can put a blank sticky on a page they want to comment on later and write what they want. Or not.

    1. Ken,
      I so appreciate your comment. I like the image of a bucket of cold water to wake up the powers that be in the reading instruction world.

      I’m a little behind on this conversation, and I am new to reading Nancie. However, as I mention, she and Donalyn Miller will be changing the way we do reading in my class next year!

      Thanks again for adding your expertise to the conversation!

  4. Hi, Denise,
    Love your blog and appreciate the invitation to add to the conversation. I’m just jumping in to the blogosphere and have love being inspired by your thoughts. The Reading Zone has been a landmark book for me for my instruction in 4th grade. It empowered me to give my students the gift of time to read…and read they do! They become voracious readers, “chew” through books, and keep me searching for more. They are amazed at first, but then build their reading stamina, and believe me, people are in awe if they walk into my room during our focused reading time. I meet very quietly with individuals and small groups but they respect the reading time so much that they speak very quietly and are truly ignored by the readers. I have searched for other ways to get them to talk about books, and they really don’t need the sticky note record to be able to talk. In fact, a broader base of literature gives them more to say about their current read.

    On my summer reading list is The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs…and many others, though we get out of school late in Massachusetts, so I’m just getting started.
    Thanks for connecting with all of us!

    1. Amy,
      Thanks so much for the testimonial about how reading is working in 4th grade! I love it! I think perhaps you already know another Massachusetts 4th grade teacher, Nancy Carroll? If not, she should be first on your list to connect with.

      Are you on Twitter? I hope you’ll leave a link to your blog next time you visit.


      P.S. I added The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs to my reading list too! Have you read Ivan the One and Only and Wonder? Those are two of my favorites this summer!

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