Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thoughts awaken us

I have always been a reader. I wish that I could remember the first book that ever touched me, the first characters that ever inspired me to be a better version of myself, but I can't. What I do remember is begging my mom to take me to the library in the summer, and coming home with a bag full of books. I would stack them neatly on the floor next to my bed, and over the next two weeks, I would devour them, line by line, page by page. I remember once being so frightened of a book that it kept me awake for the whole night (no small feat for a fifth grader), but you know what? I finished that book anyway, because I had discovered that books could be more than interesting; they could be gripping and powerful.

The catalyst for me, the moment when reading became more than a hobby, when reading became a passion, was in my ninth grade English class. My teacher, Mr. Frey, told us "Thoughts awaken us to the journey of life," and since that moment, I have known that books and poems and essays are all thoughts, carefully constructed and deeply felt, that lead us through our lives. As a writer now myself, I know that writing is an act of hope. Hope that someday, someone will read the words that a writer has laid down and be inspired.

I can't remember every book I've ever read, and this isn't the first time that I've wished for a list, but I can remember the ones that meant something. I can remember struggling and laughing and above all, loving with Laura Ingalls Wilder on the prairie. I can feel the breeze coming in the windows of Anne's Green Gables. Most of all, I remember yearning and working and learning with Christy in the Appalachian Mountains. Catherine Marshall's epic novel, "Christy," fictionalized her own mother's time teaching in a remote, backward village. "Christy" changed my life, and has continued to change it since the first time I read it. I am not a teacher because I read that novel. I have no doubt that had my grandmother never given it to me, I would be a teacher anyway. I don't think, however, that I would teach with the same level of compassion and caring if it weren't for the tenacity and inspiration that was lent to me through "Christy". I can't even count the number of times that I picked up that worn paperback during college, desperate for some hope and relief. "Christy" always reminded me why I was working so hard.

I encourage the students that I work with to find the words that lift them up, that teach them how to be better versions of themselves, and to read because reading is eternal. It connects us to the past and helps us to understand ourselves in the present. It is meaningful, and permanent, and all children should be given the same opportunity that I was; the opportunity to find themselves in literature. In fact, I encourage everyone to do that: if you don't like to read, you probably haven't found the right book. That may sound silly, but I promise you that somewhere, between the pages of a book, is a world that you want to be a part of.

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