I was reading my book by the Duck Pond on Thursday morning when I felt the ground start to shake. I was startled at first, and when I glanced up, there were two massive black horses walking two feet in front of me, mounted by a pair of Albuquerque Police Officers. I wasn’t the only one there reading or trying to relax, and I said something. “I’m trying to read here.” “What? You can’t read?” the female officer asked. Now, I have a Masters degree and I hadn’t had any coffee that morning, so this is what I really wanted to say: “Look, I’m glad you’re having fun playing cowboys, but some of us are here trying to learn. If you can read, read the room.”
When I taught expository writing at the University of New Mexico in 2018, my students read “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. A staple of most high school English classes in the U.S., a lot of students dismiss the book as being just “a fairy story.” A few students asked me why they had to read it again in college, and I asked them to be patient and see if they could glean anything new. Once you understand a story’s plot, you can focus on dialogue, setting, characterization, theme, historical context — all elements of a good story that point a reader toward its deeper ideas.