Child of Dandelions continued:
As I continue with this novel, I continue to hit ‘speed bumps’ where I find myself confused by what I am reading.
So, what would literacy ‘gurus’ suggest a student do when confusion arises while reading?
Kelly Gallagher from Deeper Reading:
Are students willing and able to embrace confusion? Do they understand that confusion is natural, even with proficient readers, and, Gallagher would suggest, is even necessary when reading something challenging. He quotes Sheridan Blau:
“…recognizing when we are confused is actually a sign of increased comprehension and that as readers we should welcome and embrace confusion. Learning begins when we encounter confusion.” (p.63)
“Students do not understand this concept. They think they are supposed to sit down and read Great Expectations once and understand it. They are dismayed when they become confused, and they often see their inability to immediately work through the hard parts as a reason to give up.” (63)
I can relate. As I struggle with the place names and plot points of Child of Dandelions, I am definitely also struggling with thoughts such as ‘I should be getting this’ or ‘a better reader would be getting this, so why aren’t I?‘ or ‘I am not getting this so forget it, I’ll just choose another book.‘
But Gallagher writes about coaching students to persevere in the face of confusion:
“I am not concerned that they will encounter confusion, however, about what they will do when they encounter the confusion.” (63)
The next question, then, is how do I fix my confusion?
Cris Tovani passes out a sheet of fix-up strategies to her students to help them with the question, “What are we supposed to do when we get stuck reading?“:
- Make a connection between the text and your life, your knowledge of the world or another text.
- Make a prediction.
- Stop and think about what you have already read.
- Ask yourself a question and try to answer it.
- Reflect in writing on what you have read.
- Use print conventions (key words, bold print, italicized words, etc.)
- Retell what you’ve read.
- **Reread: “Rereading is the principal strategy good readers use.” — Kelly Gallagher
- Notice patterns in text structure.
- Adjust your reading rate: slow down or speed up.
For me with Child of Dandelions, I have definitely been asking a lot of questions in my head which then had led to having to reread. For example, I arrived on a page referencing a character called Munchkin and I had no idea who he or she was:
“Sabine was about to remind the queen that Hindus are cremated, not buried, when Munchkin pulled at Lalita’s gold earring.” (45)
Thus began an almost forensic back starting at the beginning of the book to find where this Munchkin character was introduced:
“Sabine’s little brother, wearing one one of her old dresses, ran to her and she kissed him. His name was Minaz, but she called him Munchkin. Born with Down syndrome, he hadn’t learned to say many words, but he responded to some. He would be nine this year.” (31)
The fact that he is not a major character, however, means that, I am guessing, my reading brain didn’t pay too much attention to Minaz / Munchkin when I first read him and / or I wasn’t tuned to my reading channel.
This forensic search also necessitated a slowing down of my reading rate to find the exact reference to Minaz.
So, I wonder if I adjust my thinking to expect confusion, as every proficient reader encounters it at some point and even embrace confusion as a good thing that is forcing me to think, then maybe I enjoy this book for a different reason than it is an easy read about a topic I know well.
Having said that, part of me hopes there is a tipping point soon, when the gears click together — to mix my metaphors — and I can start getting lost in the story instead of wrestling with it to make sense. Onward…