Last month, I wrote about spending seven days in a fourth grade classroom. As you might have read, the students did not do any reading while I was there. The situation left me feeling bereft. Yet there was one bright moment that I’m still holding on to. An impromptu book discussion can even give a pessimist a wee bit of hope.
What with all of the studying for the test, teaching to the test and taking practice tests going on in the classroom, I had a lot of free time. Luckily I had brought along Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk, a 560 plus page novel that kept me engaged for a good bulk of the time. At one point, on the last day I was there, one girl--I’ll call Sabrina --wandered over and asked what I was reading. I told Sabrina it was a novel and I described the plot a bit. She smiled and asked if it was a true story. (The word “novel” seems to have gone out of vogue. Kids rarely seem familiar with it).
Well, we started talking books a bit. She told me she collected Goosebumps and they were special to her. Okay, not my area, but I tried to go with it. This led to the love of Junie B. Jones; now that I picked up on speedy quick. She told me how she had a special bookshelf in her room for her books even though her room was quite small. Apparently Sabrina had a substantial collection and she believed it might be valuable one day. She was still considering whether she should try to sell them for a profit one day or save them to hand down to her children. I told her she still had time to worry about that but I was glad she saw the intrinsic value of sharing much loved books.
Then I waited. Because I could tell Sabrina was a true lover of books and I had a feeling it would come. And then it did. “You know what I really love reading about? Real stuff. Like King Tut. I love to read about how they figured out all this stuff about him and what it means.” "Yes! Me, too. Me, too", I joined in gleefully as I jumped up and down in my seat. "I love that kind of stuff, too." So we talked more about that stuff and the joy of finding out even more stuff.
Reading nonfiction for pleasure; yes, outside of the classroom, well beyond the curriculum, for the sheer fun of thinking and wondering.