I have been a voracious reader as long as I can remember. My childhood memories are full of long and happy hours spent with Clifford the Big Red Dog, my friends in the Babysitters’ Club, and everyone’s favorite female sleuth in practical pumps, Nancy Drew. Middle school was spent living through the terrors on R.L Stine’s Fear Street, followed by a graduation to the true horror of Stephen King in high school. Quite simply, I can’t remember a time when there hasn’t been a book on my nightstand.
As I started teaching, I would have told you I brought my love for books into the classroom. I filled my classroom library with fantastic reads, both new and classic–or, at least, I was told they were fantastic. Some I read as read alouds; others I skimmed to prepare for working with book clubs. But way too many of the amazing books on my shelves were never opened by me–and, therefore, never opened by my students.
Fast forward to two summers ago. After eight years in the classroom and four years as an instructional coach, I thought I had everything figured out. I loved literacy and everything related to reading and writing. I felt confident in my knowledge of good instructional practices. I had a shelf overflowing with amazing professional books and was regularly leading professional development around literacy.
But then I attended the ILA conference and the world shifted. As I sat there, immersed in literacy for four days, the margins of my notebook quickly filled with title after title of outstanding books. Someone handed me a copy of The One and Only Ivan. And I began to really read for the first time in a long time.
I spent the rest of that summer reading middle grade and YA novels, then continued throughout that school year. Last summer I participated in Donalyn Miller’s summer #Bookaday challenge, the stack of books on my nightstand constantly threatening to tip over. I signed up for the selection committee for our state’s book awards and subscribed to the Nerdy Book Club blog for regular updates of new and upcoming titles. I read books that made me laugh, books that have made me ugly cry, and books that have taken me completely out of my reading comfort zone. I have held my breath as Peter and Pax tried to find their way back to each other and mourned Ms. Bixby. Over the past two years, I have transformed myself into a model of the kind of reader I want my students to become.
And, I learned very quickly, it matters.
It matters because of the student who had a copy of Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters on her desk whose face lit up when I asked her if she’d also read Smile.
It matters because of the fourth grader who visits my office to chat with me about Charlotte’s Web.
It matters because of the first grader who stopped and talked to me about our favorite Dog Man book in the hallway yesterday afternoon.
It matters because of the fifth grader who raised his hand to get my attention during standardized testing last week because he wanted to tell me he started reading The Honorable Perry T. Cook after I read a chapter aloud in his classroom several weeks ago.
It matters because of the third graders who showed up at my office door to borrow Fenway and Hattie after I shared a chapter with their class.
It matters because of the teacher who asked to borrow Pax for a class read aloud after I used an excerpt in a training.
And it matters for my own children, who I can only hope are someday inspired by teachers who love to read, too.
Note: Just as I prepared to hit publish on this post, this fantastic piece by Pernille Ripp popped up in my inbox with some outstanding ideas on how to be a reading role model!
I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.