Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hey, What Are You Reading?

A flashback brings a smile to my face...

It is late and I am snuggled under the covers on my twin bed.  My eyes, heavy and falling, are being held open by force.  My mom's mellow voice is filling the room with The Adventures of Raggedy Ann and Andy. I felt, more than saw, her unique way of holding the book in her left hand, as the fingers on her right hand slowing paused, then slid down the page of words.
Today I can't tell you exactly what the duo was doing.  I can tell you how I felt.  I can tell you the way the light hit my mom's face and the way her voice filled the room, lighting the dark spaces and completely calming any uncertainty left over from a complicated, confusing day. 
Another memory swims in, decades later, of a young couple driving along the freeway in the middle of the night, making their way home to see mom and dad.  One arm on the wheel and one on the back of the seat, ears fixed on the words being read from Clan of the Cave Bear.  The long drive being made swift, the connections, made from a shared story, growing. 

Hey, what are you reading? I asked my son last year.  Mom, it's the best book, my teacher is reading it out loud to us. Hhmm, I thought.  I must get this.  After downloading it to my reader, I began my next cornerstone book.  I was moved and changed after reading, Out of My Mind.  I then passed it to my daughter, who then passed it to her teacher, who then read it aloud to her class, who then passed it to our administrators, and so on it went. 

Stories, and story time, create memories and moments, frozen in time, that change us, fill our needs, teach us about ourselves and connect us to each other. Last summer I read The Help.  Just mentioning the title to a perfect stranger and we are fast friends, having shared a common experience.  The conversation, following the mention of the title, is fast paced and filled with personal connections.  I learn personal details about childhood and hidden opinions about society, all within moments.  This fast connection made possible by the shared reading of a book.

I asked my students the other day, "Hey, what are you reading?"  Knowing that I would find out so much about them after hearing their answer.  Were they needing to learn about themselves?  Did they need and/or enjoy escape into fantasy?  Were they trying to fit in socially by holding on to a text that was way too hard for them, but read by all their friends?  Did they know how to get lost in a book and savor every moment, sad when it ended?  I listened as they responded.   I was so enthralled with their comments, learning so much and loving watching their eyes light up as they talked about the characters they had invited into their world. When everyone had finished, I noticed a few who looked like they were about to burst, say, "Oh, I read that one.  Can you believe that boy did that?"         Connections.

So, "Hey, what are you reading?" Is someone asking you?  Are you asking someone else? 
Put it on your email signature.  Share your reads on Goodreads.  Write it on an ongoing list in your classroom.  Make those fast connections, watch them grow!

1 comment:

  1. That is a good idea: put the question on your email signature. I know a blogger/librarian who asks all the children who come to her door on Halloween to tell her one book that they are enjoying. "What are you reading?" is a wonderful conversation starter and "deepener."

    I thought I'd visit all of my fellow Cybils panelists and say hello. So hi. I'm looking forward to working together.