Sunday, September 25, 2011

WHY Do YOU read?

What?  What did she say?  Did she say, "Why do you read?"  "Now, why did she just ask that?", I wondered aloud to the table of women sitting with me.  I have been asked what am I reading, what do I want to read...but Why do I read?  Okay, she had my attention.  Becky Koesel, a powerful Literacy consultant from Texas, stood in the front of a cool room in July and, well, she made me think...

Why do I read?  I began my list.  To learn, to escape, to grow.  Hhmm, what else?  To cook, to learn how to be a better wife, mother, teacher.  Blank, that's it.  To learn.  Was there more?  Tick, tock, (little anxiety welling up.)  Surely there was more to the surface-simple reasons that were crawling through my mind.  Dig.  Dig deeper. 

I thought back to times in my life when reading had been a part of the important event, Christmas.  Every December I pull out a stack of, now, old books.  Their covers so familiar, like old friends' faces, smiling up at me.  The Polar Express, Cranberry Christmas.  I remember reading The Polar Express to my students that first year that I taught.  I remember reading The Polar Express to my daughter her first Christmas and then watching her read it to her younger brother and sister, many years later.  Why??  Why do I read?  I read to establish and preserve family traditions.  To connect with others in the only way that a shared story can provide.  Wow, now my list was growing...

I noticed that the more thought that I gave to it, the more I became aware of what I value in my life and what I want to hold onto, the special memories that connect me to ones that I care so much about.  I noticed the way that the characters allow me to step into their world without risking anything in my own.  The lessons I have learned and the compassion I have developed about new cultures, wouldn't have happened without experiencing their story being told in a book. 

So, why do I read?  Nancy Atwell, in A Poem A Day:  A Guide To Naming The World, quoted Wallace Stevens as saying "...Poets help us by discovering and uncovering the world-its history, culture, arifacts, and ecology, as well as our identities and relationships."  Wow, powerful words.

My learning with Becky ended that day, but just started within my own mind.  I wondered why I had never had my students experience the "why".  So, I began planning for my lesson.  I came across a poem written by Richard Peck, and couldn't resist this as The Poem of the Day for Why Do YOU Read?  Enjoy!

I read because one life isn't enough, and in the page of a book I can be anybody;

I read because the words that build the story become mine, to build my life;

I read not for happy endings but for new beginnings; I'm just beginning myself, and I wouldn't mind a map;

I read because I have friends who don't, and young though they are, they're beginning to run out of material;

I read because every journey begins at the library, and it's time for me to start packing;

I read because one of these days I'm going to get out of this town, and I'm going to go everywhere and meet everybody, and I want to be ready.
--Richard Peck

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