When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.
Our son Jordan joined our family in the middle of his second-grade year. He came with a tote of tattered clothes and an old blanket. On the ride home he clung to a stuffed pup we had given him on a previous visit. Judging by the looks of the smashed fur and floppy neck from being hugged, Jordan hadn’t let go of it since he’d opened the wrapping paper it came in.
He was quiet and adaptable. He adjusted to our routines, loved the food we cooked, and played what the other kids played. We were waiting for him to trust us enough to tell us the things he liked to play and eat and do. Instead he opted for quiet compliance.
Even with the nightly book choice, Jordan relied on the others to choose the stories and listened from the other end of the couch while holding his stuffed pup. The other kids piled on top of Andy and me as we read their chosen books.
We gave him space and waited for him to make eye contact. Sometimes I asked, “Is there a book you love? A story you miss?”
Many weeks later, Jordan shocked me with a response. “Harry Potter. Do you know it?”
“I know it,” I said, and pulled it from a high shelf.
His eyes widened. “You got it!”
“Do you like Harry Potter?” I asked.
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Mr. L was readin’ it when I left.”
“You left in the middle of the story?” I asked. It shouldn’t have felt as heavy as it did, but my heart was soft for the too many uprooted stories in his life. “We could read it together,” I suggested.
“It don’t matter,” he said.
I sat down in the middle of the long couch. He sat next to me and propped his stuffed pup on my knee. Jordan’s leg pressed against mine, as he leaned slightly. He remained stiff, but he was next to me. We announced that we were going to start a new story, and the other kids ran to join us.
“This is a story Jordan’s teacher started reading, but Jordan left and never got to hear the end of it.”
“That’s terrible,” said Sam. I realized the stark differences in their lives. One who was a master at uprooting and the other who was a foreigner to disruption.
“Maybe start at the front,” Jordan said.
“Good idea,” I said, and opened to the first page.
I began reading. Jordan started to relax against me. Soon, we were under the spell of J.K. Rowling. Little did I know it would become the anchor of many make-believe games and future conversations. The kids started creating and acting out new plot lines of Harry Potter. Jordan was always Harry. They piled on the couch and reread the parts of the book we’d read together the night before. They even started reading ahead without me! They became bonded siblings because of the magic of reading a book together.
When we take the time to get to know an author, magical things happen. It is good in families, and it is good in classrooms. It is good for us as readers and writers…and humans.
This week we look at author studies. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Editor, Choice Literacy
Christy Rush-Levine scaffolds her middle-school students’ understanding of craft moves by moving from short stories to novels when studying specific authors.
Meaningful reading, writing, speaking, and listening comes out of thoughtfully planned author studies. Gayle Gentry shares her thinking and planning.
Mary Helen Gensch curated a list of author websites, videos, and interviews to use during author studies.
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Bitsy Parks shares the way a series study enriches the reading lives of students and serves as an intervention to help readers grow.
Matt Renwick shares creative ways teachers in his school celebrate authors.
In this week’s video Melanie Meehan uses A Day’s Work as a mentor text to help fifth grader Emily develop setting in her writing.
In an encore video, acclaimed children’s book author and teacher Jennifer Richard Jacobson talks with a group of fifth graders about how writers establish a theme early in stories and then braid elements of the theme throughout the text.
Jen Schwanke shares tools and tips for dealing with professional stress, from flipping negative emotions to finding ways to move forward with energy.
New PD2Go: Text sets are one way to scaffold the research process for students who are preparing to write informative or opinion texts. This session from Melanie Meehan considers how to create text sets to scaffold the research process in grades 3-5.
Reading Rockets share 10 Reasons to Do an Author Study.
I discovered how reading a book can make you want to write one.
That’s all for this week!