So, it’s Friday night. I’m a freshman English teacher. I’m watching The Two Towers with my eleven-year-old daughter as we grade papers from the week. I’m physically exhausted and my brain is mush. I feel as if I’ve been run over by 166 wildebeests. (I do have 166 students; however, none of them are actually wildebeests.)
I know I’m scheduled to write a blog and I need to submit it in the next several days. I also know that my heart has been telling me to write about reading. So, I begin to think about reading.
Reading with my personal children.
Reading with the 166 wildebeests, er, students.
Reading by myself.
And here’s what I come up with.
We started reading to our children when they were born. My oldest daughter’s middle name is Scout. So, of course, during the 13 months of breastfeeding, we read To Kill a Mockingbird, among other books. I’d prop the baby on one side of the boppy, the book on the other side, and Harper Lee’s words flowed through us. Mother to child.
My husband read to her too. We didn’t have a digital camera back then (believe it or not)! So this is a picture of a picture.
When the second one came along, so many things were different. I worked full time. We lived in a different house and town. We had a new circle of friends in our new place. But, the reading remained. As a working mom, I cherished and coveted our reading time in the evenings. My older daughter even got in on the act.
Daughter #2 also carries a literary middle name, Arwen, the elf princess. She is 6 now and we’re currently reading Fire and Ice, the 4th book in the Spirit Animals series. Our evening talk now centers on what our spirit animal would be if we had one. She’s got a fierce nature like one of the main characters, Meilin, and has decided she’d need Jhi the Panda to balance her ferocity. She’s probably right.
At school each day, I teach 14 and 15 year olds about reading and writing. Some of them have home literacy experiences much like my children, but most of them do not. I find myself wanting to mother them in their literary lives. At times, we cover what I consider developmental gaps in their reading.
“Have you read Love You Forever? No? Well, we must. It’s the story of a kid whose mom loves him–no matter the stage of life he’s in or the difficulties he causes. And, what’s really cool is at the end, he loves and cares for her. The story comes full circle. He goes home to his baby and carries on this generational tradition of love. Loving your kids is powerful stuff, folks. It changes the future.”
“Have you read A Strange Day? No? Well, we must. It’s a beautifully illustrated story that relies on pictures to help convey the message that the actions we choose to take have a ripple effect that we can’t imagine. Yeah, you could do something today that might alter someone else’s world forever!”
We fill in these gaps while we read the required 9th grade material and prepare for state mandated testing. (Click the link if you want to try your hand at taking the English I STAAR test that my students took last year!)
Finally, when I get home at night, mush-brained and sore-footed, I sometimes manage to stay awake after reading time with my kids and read for myself. Currently, I’m reading Eragon, by Christopher Paolini, at the insistence of my older daughter. I love it because I can escape into a world of dragon riders, dragons, and unlikely heroes. One of my favorite passages that I just read the other day is this…
“But what does that [language] have to do with magic?” interrupted Eragon.
“Everything. It is the basis for all power.”
And I guess that brings me to my mentally mushed, wildebeest trodden-brained, Friday-evening point.
Language is power.
When we read and write and work the magic of language in our lives and the lives of our children, it transforms them. And us.