Saturday, January 15, 2011


Our site has a twenty minute reading period built into the day. I am in the minority of teachers that enforce it. Despite the awesome staff at our school, many shrug and give into the resistance of the kids, letting them do their homework, flip though catalogs, socialize. I bully the kids into reading. And sometimes I win.

I remember one resistant reader, B., who picked up Monster by Walter Dean Myers and got hooked. "Miss M, can I take this home?" You think I'd say yes? No way! I knew that he would itch all day for reading time, sit quietly “in” the book, try to devour it as quickly as possible. (Plus I needed time to find another book to recommend to him when he finished!) Truth be told, he wasn't turned into a reader when he finished his book--but he was transformed from an anti-reader, and that's progress.

Another resistant reader, T. started reading The Hobbit because his uncle made him promise he would. I told him he had to give it fifty pages before judging it, that it might take him that long to”get into it.” One day as the bell rang he smiled, “It only took twenty pages.” But after several weeks I noticed that every day T. was still sitting with The Hobbit in his hands without reading it. Come to find out, he’d finished but didn’t want me to know because he thought he had just read The Only Good Book in the World. I was the lucky one who got to tell him there were three more books even better! “Is Bilbo in them?” Yes, I said, not as the main character, though. “Then I don’t want to read them.” Now THAT is love. Misled love, but T. had become emotionally involved with a character.

Of course I persuaded him to give Tolkien another shot, and when Peter Jackson’s first LOTR movie was released, I took a friend and met T. at a theater so we could enjoy it together. We both agreed that though we liked the movie, THE BOOK WAS BETTER.

Through the magic of books I have lived in Georgia with four Black women during the fifties (The Secret Life of Bees), turned into a dragon (Voyage of the Dawn Treader), been a misunderstood concierge for wealthy families in a Paris apartment building (The Elegance of the Hedgehog), dressed as a ham hock for an Alabama school play and escaped being killed (To Kill a Mockingbird), enjoyed bush tea with a "traditionally built" friend in Botswana (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency), lost my daddy to the Twin Towers on 9/11 (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), vetted all manner of livestock in Yorkshire (All Creatures Great and Small), survived hurricanes and escaped rabies in the Everglades (Their Eyes Were Watching God), been to Venus (Perelandra), escaped dire consequences of the Mexican Revolution (Rain of Gold), lived in the underground Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, resisting the Nazis (Mila 18), exercised my free will (East of Eden), been blind (Blindness), lived on a whaling ship disguised as a boy (Ahab's Wife), run through Paris sewers (Les Miserables)--

...and, while each of these books has wrung my heart, I am the happier for them.

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