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:~: Friday, September 08, 2006 :~:

That Lovin' Feeling

Since last week I turned up here moaning about my week from hell, I thought I'd share something really neat going on here with you.

I wish I could write about finding tons of time to write, or even tons of enthusiasm and motivation to write, but it hasn't happened. Instead, I've been buried in teaching and re-teaching the concept of literary analysis. I like teaching it because it gives me an opportunity to see how authors accomplish their purposes -- Poe's unity of effect, King's use of symbolism, Jones's deft utilization of point of view. My students? They don't always like it so much. It's hard, especially if they've been used to merely reading for surface meaning or reading to summarize or getting by without reading at all.

That's the one that always gets me -- kids who don't read.

I know, I know . . . not everyone enjoys getting lost in a good book, people have different tastes and find better things to do than sit with a book. I know it, but it doesn't mean I get it.

So the other mission I embark on every fall is getting kids to not only read more, but to find something they like to read. I read them excerpts from really great books, really cool books, newspaper articles, anything I can get my hands on that I think might hook at least one of them.

The last three years, I have not been successful. The only readers I had were the ones who came to me liking to read. I was surrounded by masses of teenagers who simply did not read unless they had to.

Believe me, it was like living in a country where no one speaks the same language as you.

This year, I picked up a high school transitions class for at-risk kids (yep, lost my second, highly coveted planning period, too). I found out the week before school started that I was also going to teach "study skills" -- basically, remedial reading. Yes, I was going to have two groups of kids who really didn't want to read. Whoo-boy, was I lucky.

I delved into Kelly Gallagher's Reading Reasons and Deeper Reading. I went looking for more high interest books. I decided I wouldn't try to change the way my kids approached reading. Instead, I'd merely show them the different ways reading can benefit someone, and I'd introduce them to books they could read comfortably and which would hold their interest at the same time.

Also, I was joined by a new English teacher this year (I'm not the only one anymore!). We both require independent reading. Kids grumbled, parents grumbled, we held firm.

Something cool has developed. My transitions and study skills kids come in and read without being asked, cajoled, begged, forced. Kids across our high school are carrying around books and talking about them -- outside of class. Students come to me looking for the book so-and-so has and making me promise I'll hold it for them once it's returned.

Y'all, I swear the pod people have taken over this small corner of Georgia.

We have teenagers reading.

And they like it.

The absolute best moment of my day? Haley W. coming in to study skills this afternoon and settling down with her book (one of the Traveling Pants series) and a grin. "I don't like to read, but I've been dying to get back to this book all day," she said.

I wanted to jump around and shout for joy. You know the feeling she was experiencing, don't you? That oh-my-gosh-this-is-the-best-book-ever-and-I-can't-wait-to-finish-it-but-I-don't-want-it-to-end feeling. Because I still remember the books that gave me that feeling, I know this book (and hopefully others) will stay with Haley for a long time.

I remember . . .

The Outsiders, S. E. Hinton
Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House Books
All the Nancy Drew books (and a few of the Hardy Boys, too)
A huge box of old Harlequin romances someone gave my dad and which he passed on to me, clearly not knowing what he was starting . . .

My list would be huge, because those early reading loves led to other books and ultimately to both of my careers -- the writing and the English teaching.

What are the books that made you a book lover? And what are the books that helped tumble you into the mad, mad world of writing?


Blogger Kristi said...

the author (yep, I remember the exact one) that got me reading and desperate to get back to the books was Beverly Cleary. Not sure which book I picked up first, but I remember wandering through the library on a really rainy day in 2nd grade and seeing this brilliant pink cover, picking it up...and the rest is history.

What got me writing? I picked up a copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales (no Disney there, folks) and hated, hated, hated the way the tales ended...so I started rewriting them with happily ever after endings. :)

10:38 AM  
Blogger MaryF said...

I remember I'd read all of the Little House books more than once by the time I was in 4th grade. And all the Trixie Belden books by 5th.

My goal this year is to expose my 4th graders to a variety of books to TRY to hook them.

4:32 PM  

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