Books are lighthouses erected in the great sea of time.
I have always adored books. Actual books. The kind with pages, and hard covers, and snapshots of happy authors on the back jackets. Children’s books, and big-kid books, and adult books. I’ve loved them all and kept the ones I’ve loved. I’ve packed them as gently as heirloom china before every move — into various apartments, my first home, and the house my husband and I bought as newlyweds.
In the past, we argued about these books on a regular basis. You have to get rid of some of them, my bewildered husband lamented over and over. There are too many. You don’t even read them. They just… sit there!
But they are important to me, I insisted, puffing furiously. You don’t understand; you don’t read like I do. Scanning the spines of my books, I remembered where I was and what I was doing as I read each one. Proving the importance of this to my perplexed husband, and determined to win the argument, I stomped to a shelf, pulled down a book, and thrust it at him. I read this on our honeymoon. Remember? I finished it in the hotel room in San Francisco. That beautiful room whose windows opened across the whole width of the wall so we could see the fog hovering over the Bay Bridge. That’s what this book reminds me of. See? These books are important to me!
And my husband relented, shaking his head and leaving me to my sugarcoated memories and overstuffed shelves.
I suppose I thought the physical presence of all those books represented my life, my literacy, my commitment to reading . . . and the countless hours I’d put into them. I couldn’t bear to lose their solid, silent existence.
But then, exhausted from full-time jobs, parenthood, and caring for several acres surrounding our ridiculously large suburban home, my husband and I decided to sell our house and move into a tiny house in town. The move vastly reduced the burdens of a home too large for our family of four.
As the move loomed, my husband looked at me gently. He nodded toward my bookshelves. You know they can’t come with us?
I sniffed like a petulant child who finally understands she’s lost a ridiculous and stubborn argument. Yes. I knew. It was simple: there was no room for my books in the new house.
Tapping into a deep well of will, I didn’t pout. Instead, I called my friends and family. Many were more than happy to pick through my treasured stacks; some of my favorites were given specific readers who would enjoy them best. Slowly and carefully, as if they were precious newborn puppies, I found homes for each of my books.
All that is left is a multi-page document titled, “Books I’ve Read.” Each book is listed there, the titles written, one by one, in careful cursive. As each volume left my hands, I made a note. I can still look at each title on the list and instantly remember where I read each one, and how that book made me feel. I can conjure up memories of the characters, their plights and victories. I shudder thinking of the books I didn’t enjoy; I grin at those I loved enough to read over and over again.
When the books went to their new homes, they didn’t vanish at all. Giving them away didn’t mean I lost the hours I put into them. My books still exist for me, just as surely as if they were still lined up like protective little soldiers in my living room. They’ve still spoken to me, each in a particular way, and the impact is still important.
Now that I’m turning myself, albeit reluctantly, into an e-reader (my new Kindle rests sleek and small in my hands), I finally understand this truth: each time you read, it matters. Not the accumulation of texts — surprisingly, that matters not a bit. But the accumulation of characters and plot and theme and conflict and resolution? Ah, yes. That matters. That’s what I tell the young readers I encounter every day at my school. That is what creates understanding of the world.
This week we’re featuring resources on teaching with series books. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jennifer Schwanke is a principal in Dublin, Ohio. She also blogs about her personal pursuits at http://jengoingbig.blogspot.com/
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Katie DiCesare discovers a unit on series books is a great choice for first and second graders, building skills ranging from understanding character traits to making good choices for independent reading:
Franki Sibberson is preparing for a move to third grade, and has spent the summer finding great Series Books for Third Grade on this Pinterest board:
The amazing Chart Chums blog has some wise advice for helping students document and chart their learning once they move into chapter books:
Megan Ginther and Holly Mueller share their Top Ten Ways to Turn Your Classroom into a Hotbed of Enthusiastic Readers over at the Nerdy Book Club:
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Sometimes a lack of experience is a gift worth embracing. In New Teachers: The Power of Inexperience, Michelle Kelly considers all the strengths new teachers bring to schools, from their comfort with technology to genuine enthusiasm:
Tony Keefer taps into the Instagram craze among his students, and finds it is an ingenious tool for encouraging summer reading while kids are on vacation:
Katherine Sokolowski has tips for leading A Summer Reading Camp for Middle School Students:
In this week’s video, Franki Sibberson’s fourth graders use the whole-class writing share time to discuss writing series they are working on (including blog interviews and book reviews), with an eye toward collaborating with classmates:
Kelly Petrin finds a bare classroom at the end of the year leads her to improvise with stuffed animals and literacy with her preschool students. The mix of play and reading is so successful that it changes her planning for the fall:
That’s all for this week!