My name is Stacy, and I have found myself articulating, repeating, and contemplating this statement in every sphere of my life. I’m a teacher of enthusiastic fourth grade minds. I’m a reader of books and of blogs. I’m a Master’s graduate who studied literature and was then graded on it! I’m a friend to those who don’t mind if I run late for brunch because I stopped by a bookstore on my way. I’m a member of a family whose goal was to keep my nose out of a novel long enough to cross the street safely.
My individuality is ever-developing, my career is expanding, my relationships are deepening, my interests are starting to both converge and diverge… I am told that this is what growing up feels like. Yet the books that I read in middle school continue to beckon me back to them. The tales that captivated me as a teenager always have one more thing to communicate now. The accounts that kept me flipping through pages under a night light in my dorm room provide as much (and sometimes more) clarity upon their re-reading today. It is why I have never wavered in my belief that the story that I pre-read for my fourth graders holds as much depth and profundity as the one I pick off the NY Times best seller list. It validates my theory that books can preserve their power at any age, and at any stage (I like to rhyme!)
It might seem like a no brainer, bridging connections between the middle grade graphic novel and the adult dystopian saga, or the YA romance story and the precocious picture book. This is not revolutionary, but it matters. Here is why:
- Children read when they see you read. There! I could’ve saved myself a lot of money on my higher education with that nugget, huh? Seven words, simple sentence. Yet the power behind it cannot be overstated. If we are to develop readers of the future, how can they buy into its importance if the role models in their lives never crack open a page? I’ve taught, babysat, and camp counselored (not a verb) for years, and I can always find a pique of interest when they notice my engagement in a great story.
- We can embark on a new chapter (pun intended) of what it means to have a dialogue with one another. I am not here to argue that teenagers should be perusing the adult section in the library, or that an early reader is going to enjoy middle grade historical fiction. While plot lines, settings, and character traits may sometimes converge, it’s equally as gratifying when they do not present with obvious similarities. What I am arguing is that their themes are as universal as ever, and warrant important and critical conversation. Hope, belonging, friendship, perception, conflict, empathy… these can all be fueled by simply stating, “Huh… I’m reading a book just like that.”
- This leads to my final note. Connection. It’s a mark of a good educator to meet kids where they are at. My thought is that through literature, we can all begin to meet each other. Though we come from our own respective spheres, let’s allow the lessons that books demonstrate to bring us one step closer to hearing each other.
And maybe, for a moment… it will put us on the same page.