Adapted from Reading with Presence by Marilyn Pryle
Reading with presence is reading with your whole self, your true self, your memories, your opinions, your willingness to learn and grow. It's not just for students. When we approach a text with openness, curiosity, wonder, and the knowledge that we have experiences that shape us while still we seek to evolve, we read with presence. When we allow feelings like confusion, disagreement, or even anger without closing off or looking for the easy resolution, we read with presence. When we feel empathy, when we let the surge of compassion or the ache of sadness or the heart flip of joy flow through us without dismissing it, we read with presence. When we want nothing from a text but what it might have to offer our minds and spirits on its own terms, we read with presence.
And what about texts that are poorly conceived, poorly written, and poorly executed? Texts that are too difficult to understand? Texts that we simply don't care about? The premise still works. Texts are like people: They come into our lives; we may or may not be able to choose them; we may or may not like them in the moment. But we stand in our own self-knowledge and remain open. One must vow to be impractically and doggedly curious. One must cultivate a Buddhist's "beginner's mind" without bias or expectation. As Hamlet said, "The readiness is all."
This is what we want to teach our students—how to be lifelong learners, how to be ready learners.
Marilyn Pryle is an English teacher at Abington Heights High School in Clarks Summit, PA and has taught middle and high school English for over twenty years. She is the author of several books about teaching reading and writing, including 50 Common Core Reading Response Activities and Writing Workshop in Middle School. Learn more about Marilyn at marilynpryle.com.
You can follow Marilyn on Twitter @MPryle