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Silent Reading

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies
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Silent Reading


Directions: Read the passage and focus on your silent reading experience.  What happens inside your mind, imagination, and perception while reading silently?  (Optional: Read the passage out loud to yourself and see what happens mentally and emotionally.)


Paul walked into the room and a thousand eyes met his, causing him to look all around at anything else but those eyes, the laser-like looks forced him to focus on the walls, and there were pictures hanging, but he could hardly see them, what they were about, it all seemed a blur, so he checked out the floor, gazed at his  sneakers, and thought,” hey maybe they’ll take me out of this place real quick,” and then he stopped for a second and wondered where he could look without seeing all the eyes hypnotizing him, you know, look into my eyes, you’re getting sleepy, but no, he couldn’t sleep, his eyes were wide open and he kept thinking, “where can I look now, yes, I feel the powerful vibes rocking me left, right, and center,” and suddenly he recalled his mother telling him, “Paul, you’re a sensitive boy, you feel a lot more than the others, and that’s a good thing, although, you shouldn’t get carried away, that can be bad for you, because you can lose yourself, always trying to find your way out of whatever you’re feeling, and that isn’t fun.”  Paul looked up and again saw in front of him those eyes, and for a moment, he felt naked, unmasked, exposed, so vulnerable, like the eyes looked through him and knew what he was thinking and feeling.  “But no, no, no, what could they do to him,” he thought, “how could they possibly hurt him by just looking and make him run away and hide from his feelings?”


You just read the passage with your “real” eyes.  The outside world disappeared for a few minutes.  You entered a world of solitude, privacy, the solace of reading, a sanctuary for adults and kids alike.  The silence of reading’s inner world became the refuge where you experienced words that were no longer black-on-white read by your eyes.  You found yourself in a magical, virtual world initiated by your inner reading voice.  You were the avatar who walked alongside or inside Paul in his surreal, illusionary moment in time.      


Once inside you switched eyes, from outer to inner.  The inner eye needs powerful concentration because its subject exists in a dark cave of your imagination.  This is like a twilight zone, so you must pay close attention to the mind-pictures the words created, and at the same time, be aware of going back-and-forth while reading, from outside to inside, inside to outside, outside to inside, inside to outside, outside to inside, ad infinitum, in your head.  Silent reading can also get weird and messed up with all the distractions, side-trips, tangents, and reflections entering your mind without warning.  There are no filters to keep extraneous things out except your concentration.


Readers, please be mindful, alert, conscious, cognizant, and sensible when reading words silently with your inner reading voice: it triggers the miraculous pictures in the imagination.  Your voice makes silent sounds as it lip-sinks words and generates new worlds during the decoding process.  How tranquil things are, like a walk in the park on a spring day, and yet so strange, with silence making lots of noise and images.  The imaginary inner ear listens to everything read, as the inner eye watches the pictures floating by on the TV screen in the mind’s magic reading theater.


But the noise in silent reading doesn’t stop: A new piece of inner world reality comes into play,self-talk, where you, the reader, while tuning into a writer’s word-worlds, gets caught up in a  conversation with another voice (not the reading voice), maybe with your self, talking about  experiences connected to or disconnected from what you’re reading, which can lead you astray.  The film from the story can become scrambled.  It leaves you reading words mechanically and feeling slightly distracted and spaced in.  You lose contact with the writer, her words, your own silence, the silence of reading, and become a harbor for misreading, misunderstanding, misinterpreting, and junk-thought


Silent reading presents a cool, quirky, extraordinary world of pictures, thoughts, ideas, feelings, meanings, memories, dialogues, monologues, and chatter which penetrates and energizes your field of inner vision with abundant noise.  Things can get a little frightening and confusing, especially for struggling readers, who feel alone in the dark trying to figure out the mysterious, hypnotic world of silent reading, this vast landscape of surround sound quietude.


How can kids morph into Super Reader Man and “turn off the dark”?  Dial up their inner eye. Put it in the mind’s magic reading theater in a front row seat not too far from an imaginary TV screen.  The eye views moving picture shows as words are read by the silent inner reading voice and translated into images that drift in slow-mo or dart across the screen, where some or most are picked up and seen.  The greater the effort, the more a child can visualize and see details, and the more entertaining a performance will be.  He discovers new, authentic meaning and feels like an image inside the images of a 3-D, holographic, rainbow-colored, dream-state, virtual reality, which create exciting, pleasurable, challenging reading and spawn passionate readers.


The silent reading process is complex, deep and rich in word-worlds and sound-worlds    onstantly bombarding your reading self with everything it has.  And don’t forget the detours, conversations, and connections that help you to complete your experiences and appreciate what happens inside and make reading meaningful.  You feel engaged after getting these “invitations” and enter a really big show, where you find yourself in the “story, an avatar, as the words beat louder and louder and louder with the surround sounds and sights of a silent reading world…


If you want to know more about reading, and silent reading, and a lot of other things about the subject, check out Alberto Manguel’s book titled, A History of Reading (New York: Penguin Books, paperback, 1996).  In the chapter, “Silent Reading,” he explains the origins of this very human, organic, mysterious, and magical process. 





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Jeffrey Pflaum has been an inner-city elementary school teacher in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, for thirty-four years (NYCDOE, retired in 2002). He worked as a creative writing, whole language, social studies, gifted/talented, physical education, and mentor teacher in grades K – 6 and special education. Pflaum coached middle school boys and girls basketball teams and one of his players became coach of the Pace University team. Tennis was also taught on the elementary school level to lower grade kids as part of the NY Junior Tennis League Program founded by Arthur Ashe.

Pflaum considers himself a teacher-developer-researcher experimentalist who created successful education projects in emotional intelligence, social and emotional learning, reading, writing, poetry, thinking, creativity, vocabulary expansion, concentration, and intra- and interpersonal communication skills. He has written articles for professional newspapers and publications about his curricula. Various programs appeared on web sites such as ERIC and CASEL/Collaborative for Academic and Social and Emotional Learning (“Experiences, Reflections, and Insights”).

One program was featured at the International National Council of Teachers of English at NYU as one of the best examples of English Language Arts in the NYC Public Schools, K – 12. His students’ poetry and prose have been published in college, writers’, gifted secondary, and children’s literary journals, magazines, newspapers, and by major commercial book publishers; read on public radio (Poetry-In-The-Morning, WNYE-FM, sponsored by the Teachers & Writers Collaborative/NYC); and, won honors and awards from PBS, Channel Thirteen/NYC. One student, Noel “Speedy” Mercado, became a top NYC disc jockey on WKTU-FM.

Pflaum published an inspirational book about adolescent reading lives titled MOTIVATING TEEN AND PRETEEN READERS: HOW TEACHERS AND PARENTS CAN LEAD THE WAY (Rowman & Littlefield Education). For book reviews, go to http://www.examiner.com/review/motivating-your-kids-to-read to see Kecia Burcham's response to the book, and also, The Teachers College Record for Karen Polk's insightful article. For Karen Polk's review (8/24/12), from the Teachers College Record, google "MOTIVATING TEEN AND PRETEEN READERS - Teachers College Record."

Go to www.JeffreyPflaum.com for more articles on "Contemplation Writing," Meditative Writing Ideas, Internet radio interviews, published student poetry, and newspaper articles about his book on motivating adolescent readers and Inner Cities Arts Project. His recent interviews on Contemplation Writing can be found at these "Pure Imagination" links: http://prn.fm/2012/07/14/pure-imagination-071312 and Pure Imagination - 07/13/12 | Progressive Radio Network. A second interview on "Connect With Julianna" (Toginet Radio Network) about "Contemplation" or "Music" Writing can be found at these links: http://bit.ly/iTFbk7 and http://bit.ly/t5FA0W; or, Connect with Creative Educator and Author, Jeffrey Pflaum.

Pflaum is currently a regular blogger on The BAM Radio Network's blog, ED Words, where posts about a plethora of his projects can be found at: www.bamradionetwork.com/edwords-blog/blogger/listings/jeffpaul. Also, he is a contributing writer for EDUCATION VIEWS at: www.educatnviews.org/author/jeffreypflaum/

  • Errol St.Clair Smith
    Errol St.Clair Smith Thursday, 12 January 2012

    Never thought about how complex silent reading can be on the mind. I can relate with most of what was mentioned. Coming up with a picture of Paul entering the room happened without even realizing it, before long I had a whole environment laid out in my mind.

    It's so very easy to stray from the writers words and blindly read because of "self talk". For me it's usually sparked by images or memories that relate to what I'm reading. When I realize I have been blindly reading I always backtrack (assuming I am interested in the material) and figure out where my mind went astray and read over again.

    Keep up the good work Mr. Pflaum.

  • Jeffrey Pflaum @jeffrey_pflaum
    Jeffrey Pflaum @jeffrey_pflaum Monday, 16 January 2012

    Thanks, K. Much appreciated. I think that silent reading is complex and there are a lot of "things" going on while a child reads (and adults as well). If you're not interested in what you read, forget about it, you're all over the place. And when you are interested in what you read, as you point out, images and memories from your experiences will pop up, and that's a good thing, yet makes silent reading more involved with those side-journeys. The process of silent reading, with the inner reading voice, the mind's eye, the imaginary inner ear and TV screen (to see the mind-pictures), are areas not given enough attention and instruction in the schools and certainly worth exploring. That is what I am expressing in this post-article.

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