professornana (professornana) wrote,

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the improbability of the giraffe

A baby giraffe was welcomed at the Houston Zoo this week. The young giraffe is on camera taking steps, standing among a group of adult giraffes, and even lying around her enclosure. Last year I had the chance to see giraffes up close, even hand feed one, at the San Diego Wildlife Park. When I glimpsed one close up, all I could think of was "HOW?" How does it balance that neck that stretches skyward. How do those matchstick legs work. How does it manage not just to walk but to run without somehow tipping over. I feel the same way about this baby giraffe as I watch the camera, spellbound. It all seems so improbable.

And yet there are so many improbable things in life. As I read through the reading autobiographies submitted by students in my new YA lit class, I ponder those improbabilities once again. How improbable that these lifelong readers, readers Donalyn Miller would call wild readers, are. We know what helps to create lifelong, wild readers. We have scores of years of research. But we also know what kills a love of reading, and those elements still exist in schools today despite research to the contrary. And yet some of the students who are sharing their reading memories with me survived to become not just wild readers but teachers who wish to become school librarians and assist others in their journey to lifelong reading.

Because despite some of the obstacles faced by readers, there are the lifelines. They come in two shapes: books and people. Many of the reading autobiographies pinpoint a book that was instrumental. One points to THE GIVER, the first book she ever reread, the first book that ever made her pause to consider what a book could do. Others talk about a pivotal teacher, one who read aloud, brought books into the classroom, shared her reading. Or perhaps there is a parent who spends money he can ill afford on books, a parent who reads the same story over and over again.

So it may seem improbable at first glance, like that baby giraffe gamboling across the grass. But there it is anyhow, the road to a lifetime of wild reading. As one of my students observed: "thanks for this assignment. It made me reflect on the kind of teacher I want and need to be." Improbable meets possible.
Tags: books, reading
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