I am so excited to be teaming up with my fellow Virginia bloggers to celebrate our love of reading! As teachers — even math teachers 😉 — we all can appreciate the power of a good book, and I hope that you’ll discover some amazing new books through this hop… and win some too!
HOW A BOOK LOVER IS BORN
Scene. You’ve just come in from recess on a blistering hot day at the beginning of September. You’re still in the awkward stage of third grade — where you’re not sure who to sit with at lunch, or line-up next to on the playground’s blacktop. You’ve got this teacher, this wacky teacher, and for some reason there’s a patio set in the middle of your classroom library. It’s just been sitting there since the first day of school — untouched, unused.
Finally, though, at the end of this first week, you’re led in to that untouched space and asked to sit down. You and your classmates, sweaty and tired, sit crisscrossapplesauce, still breathing heavily from an epic game of kickball.
“One of my favorite traditions,” your teacher begins, “is sitting here, under our patio umbrella, reading.” You look at the people next to you. Reading? Reading? This can’t be good. “The first book we’re going to read is My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville.” Jaws dropped. Suddenly, the sweat and heavy breathing and tired eyes are erased. Aliens? In third grade?!
She begins reading. The way she turns pages seems to take a thousand years. The voices she makes when reading each and every character… like the best voiceover actor in Hollywood. And when she stops? The anticipation for the next day — under your reading umbrella — begins immediately and eclipses the anticipation of just about anything, expect maybe Christmas morning.
That… that was Mrs. Butkus. I remember every moment of every day under our reading umbrella. I remember every book — and own them all, even as an adult — because she WAS reading. When I think of reading? I think of her, the gray plastic patio set, and the moments where I learned that books were cool. Books MEANT something to the human spirit — whether they be mysterious and funny or serious and life-altering.
HOW A BOOK LOVER IS RAISED
Fast-forward to the end of third grade. Mrs. Butkus took me aside, voice hushed, and handed me a book. The Giver. The cover jarred me — just an old man… a look about him that I couldn’t place. “Before you read it, ask your parents if it’s okay. It’s not a happy book, Sarah. But it’s an important book.”
I had been a reluctant reader. Despite my ability, a reluctant one. Despite my parents filling my bedroom with books, weekly trips to the library, deep-down I was reluctant. Reluctant to invest and relate in what I read.
And yet again, Mrs. Butkus changed that. The Giver changed my life. Her handing me that book is such a large part of why I became a teacher. I’ve read that book DOZENS of times. I’ve given it as a gift to every adolescent child in my life. I’ve given it as a gift to adults that need to be book lovers, too.
Each time I read it, I think of Mrs. Butkus. How she knew, just knew, I needed it.
HOW I’M RAISING BOOK LOVERS
Reading, to me, is an experience. I want my students to feel the way I do about reading — to love it, to cherish it. Some students have barriers — no books at home, limited ability to read the ones that they do have — and some just haven’t yet had that moment, the moment when you become a reader.
In December, I took my students to see a play at the Kennedy Center. Most had never been to a play, much less to one at one of the most beautiful theaters in the nation. They were in awe (as was I). Gosh, I wish you could’ve seen their faces. The joy it filled my heart with must have added ten years to my life.
The Gift of Nothing was the basis for the play. A story of a cat and dog — unlikely friends — it lightheartedly allows students to see through the “I want that toy!” and “I want that video game!” culture that we’ve seemed to cultivate to what’s really important: each other. The time we have on this earth… with each other.
We laughed, we smiled, we sat in important silence at times, and yes, some of us cried. And when we came back? We talked. “What was the message, friends? What is the gift of nothing?”
One of my sweet little friends uttered these words of beauty: “The gift of nothing is the gift of your heart.” Another: “The gift of nothing is showing someone you care.” And another: “The gift of nothing is playing with a friend on the playground when they’re alone.”
They got it. Not only did they get it, but they started to live it.
We, of course, read the book together. And then we celebrated what we learned by making our own boxes filled with nothing — and everything, all at the same time. The boxes on our bulletin boards didn’t have anything in them. Except, they had everything: the hopes, the dreams, the love, and the passion of 20 little readers, thinkers, and joy-filled hearts in Room 108.
Not all books have to mean something. Funny books, books that make you smile… those are nourishing too. They help raise readers, too. But sometimes, sometimes you need to read a book that gives you a gift of nothing, a gift that is everything. The gift of becoming a book lover.
I’d love to giveaway The Gift of Nothing to one of you and your students. Please enter in the Rafflecopter below. CONTINUE hopping through to enter the rest of the giveaways and for the grand prize!!
Please enjoy this FREEBIE writing craftivity to celebrate giving The Gift of Nothing — and the gift of reading — to your students.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my history as a book lover, reading about The Gift of Nothing, and grabbed your freebie! “Turn the page” on this blog hoppin’ adventure and see what my pal at SOL Train Learning has up her sleeve…
Attention Virginia Educators! There are several SOL support pages based on grade level to join on Facebook if you are interested. These pages are a place for Virginia teachers to share ideas, resources, links, and ask questions of each other specifically related to teaching to the Virginia Standards of Learning.