I can definitely say that books were my earliest chosen passion. Yes, I had sat in wonder at the childhood movies that were shown to me but I didn’t actively seek them out and appreciate them for what they would later become to me. Books were my way of “seeing” the world in ways I hadn’t expected. I had just assumed that every other little kid in the world was just like me and had all the things I had, ate the same food, wore the same clothes, and their biggest problem in life was convincing mom and dad of just how much you needed a gameboy you didn’t have to share with siblings. Imagine my shock and surprise when I came across characters who had to deal with war, death, and starvation. Those were things that grownups had to sort through. Pretty soon I became aware just how different I was to not just children in stories but to children I played with everyday. I remember looking at my friends differently and wondering what sort of things they might make them different than me. That’s why I think some of the kindest and most empathetic people are readers. Because that’s what reading does…it takes you away from yourself and allows you to see another person so much more clearly.
This is why I read. My habits wane from time to time with “life” getting in the way but at my core I am a reader because I know what it does for me. Educational specialists will rattle off statistics about what daily reading will do for a child’s intelligence and I whole heartedly agree with it. Habitually reading every night will drastically improve scores in almost every area in a student’s life. However, this is not why I push the importance of reading so heavily in my classroom. I do it because reading opens up your eyes, mind, and most importantly hearts to different kinds of people and the problems they deal with. Prejudice, hatred, and racism all stem from ignorance. This ignorance is oft times willfully chosen but in other cases it’s merely a lack of proper education. Reading is the biggest weapon we have to fight against such things. How can anyone in elementary school read books like Loser, There’s A Boy In the Girl’s Bathroom, or Freak the Mighty and not feel something toward someone you might have judged too harshly at first? Perhaps that’s why I love children’s literature so much. This is where it all starts. I think these stories are just as much for adults as they are for children too. I don’t consider myself and overly emotional individual but I have found myself near tears when reading a book aloud to my class and they are so intent on the story and the character that we all experience their joys and sorrows together. It’s powerful stuff.
Ok, off my teaching soapbox about reading. My last thought before I close this blog for the night is why I am a book collector. Every time I move I genuinely have the urge to go chuck all of my books in the nearest dumpster. They have stayed with us these last 8 moves and they are so HEAVY. Then I remind myself it would be just as easy to throw one of my closest friends in a dumpster. I don’t collect them because they look good on shelves (which they do) and what else are you going to put on a bookshelf (the name is a dead giveaway moron). I keep and collect them because many of them have shaped who I am. Some books speak just to you when you need them to do so. And once they have helped shape who you are imagine what they can do for you AGAIN after time has passed and you are approaching it again as a different person? The quote that is the running theme in this blog “No two persons ever read the same book.” especially extends its meaning to “No person reads the same book twice.” Each time we re-read a book we have just that much more life experience and perspective to change it into something new. It’s a beautiful concept and a great reason to use those margins for good notes. This is why I carry dozens of hundred pound boxes each new place that I move. just be sure that if you borrow a book of mine I might smile and say to bring it back “whenever” I will be counting down the days until you bring it back to me in one piece.