Teaching Notes: Reading Slowly

29 Ramadan 1443


For eleven years, as a graduate student and later as a college instructor, I read or taught at least one book per week.

This year, for the first time, I’m experiencing what it’s like to read a novel slowly with students; to sit with a writer and think about their words, ideas, style, story; to ask so many questions of one text over a longer period together.

And now, I’m not sure if given the choice, I would want to teach any other way.

This week, my students finished reading There, There by Tommy Orange. When I asked as a final question what they thought of the book, a student shared that he had never read a book that not only explored so many perspectives of how multiple characters experienced the world but also how those same characters experienced dying and leaving it.

Another student agreed. They felt that reading how each character experienced death offered them more meaning as they transitioned and exited the story.

It was a subtle and beautiful and mature point. I hope their peers heard them.

After hearing so much news of death in the last two years, I certainly did.

We have now moved on to the next text on my syllabus. School Girls by Joscelyn Bioh. A comedy.

Today, the students read the play out loud—and as sad as we all were about having Saturday morning classes, it felt good to hear them laugh.

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