Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why We Read

The Big Blue Faux Swedish Bookcase

Today, after school, I was talking to a student about the importance of reading. I'm sure that she was just staring at me, and thinking, "Whatever, lady." But, I really meant it. Reading is like breathing.

How can we live our lives without having read Dickens? Any Dickens. My personal favorite is ever changing. Sometimes I think that I love Our Mutual Friend the best. But, then I remember Miss Pross and Sydney Carton in Tale of Two Cities, and my opinion changes. How can we not feel the frustration of faithful Gabriel Oak in Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd, when we too, know how it is to pine away, filled with unrequited love.

There is so much emotion in reading. It never fails that I cry during read alouds in front of my class, or that I have to stop to laugh. This year, during The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, I got to the part where Kenny hears the church exploding, and finds the shoe that he thinks belongs to his little sister. I just lost it. It's one scene that just perfectly sums up the suffering during the Civil Rights movement. My students stared, and some nervously giggled. It's amazing that a book can have the power to completely silence a room full of children, and can force a tired, jaded teacher to sob.

I remember taking a required writing course during a Spring Semester in college. One afternoon, the professor read to us from "Araby", a story in James Joyce's Dubliners. Towards the end, he broke down, and pulled out a handkerchief. He told us that the language in this passage was so lovely that it always made him weep. Crossing a bridge over the River Liffey, after arriving at the Dublin train station on a backpacking trip, made me think back to this professor. Imagine Joyce forging such a distant connection over time and space.  

I want my students to know that I mean what I say about reading. It is important. It's a lifesaver. It's a way to explore and learn. It is an escape. It brings joy and sorrow. I number Scout Finch, Jo March, Adam Bede, and Elizabeth Bennet among my best friends.

Cupboard of Treats

Some Old Faves

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