Books can help heal wounds. They can lift the spirits. They can take us away on grand and glorious adventures. Books can touch us in the very depths of our hearts and souls. That can only happen, though, when they are opened and read. As someone whose life was made more whole by books, I can certainly attest to the power of books and reading. Books have offered me solace in some dark moments; they have made me laugh in recognition; they have made me weep in recognition as well. As a child, a teen, and now as an adult, I have enjoyed the power of books.
For me, it all began more than half a century ago when my grandfather shared PAT THE BUNNY with me. The magic of someone sharing a story aloud is something I can still recall all these years later. I watched the magic happen with my grandchildren as they dragged THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR and RAIN BABIES and GREEN EGGS AND HAM to my husband every night as part of their bedtime ritual. I saw the power of the book when my daughter was undergoing chemo and needed a book to take her away from the antiseptic nature of the hospital room. In the last couple of months, several people I know have come to me for a copy of SPEAK mostly because of all the uproar over an attempt to censor this pivotal book. I witnessed the power of this book, intended for teens, in the lives of men and women whose teens were quite a few years ago. And I see the power of a book almost weekly when the resident of the back bedroom, my teenaged granddaughter who heads off to college in August, re-reads for the countless time HARRY POTTER. Sunday morning I heard the dulcet tones of Jim Dale’s narrations of the final HP book emanating from her bedroom as she got ready for church.
As a classroom middle school teacher, I had the chance to share stories and see the power of books. Each year, some student who had never seen much value in books and reading found THAT book, the one that started them off on a lifetime of reading. For one young man it was THE OUTSIDERS. Another reader lit up when she discovered Paula Danziger’s THE CAT ATE MY GYMSUIT. Even as I moved to the university, I encountered students who had not yet found their gateway book. I did for those classes what I did for the middle school kiddos: I read aloud and booktalked and filled the room with books of all shapes and sizes and topics and genres. I refer to this as “scattershot”, throwing out loads of books to see which student will select this book or that book.
So, today (Monday) I will spend the entire day with about 90 literacy curators, scattering books on tables for them to share with one another and the larger group, booktalking others, tying some to Common Core Standards: an entire workshop that will share stories and, hopefully, demonstrate the power of the book. What books will I share? The entire list can be accessed here: www.slideshare.net/ProfessorNana under the title Region X booklist. Find some of these books, read them, and then share them with others. Make sure every student knows about the power of the book.