I've been thinking a lot lately about my own life as a reader. We didn't have a lot of books in my home growing up and those we did have were lost in a fire when I was pretty young. My mother, a single parent, worked all of the time. And I imagine making sure we had food to eat was often a greater priority than making sure we had access to regular reading material. Still, for reasons I've already recounted in this space, I managed to become a reader. A reader who has devoted her life to creating other readers.
Which is why I'm more than a little haunted by the years I spent as a classroom teacher. Years that I've openly referred to as my "lost years" as a reader, because apart from the novels, short stories, poems etc., that I assigned my students during that time (and the mountain of papers they wrote in response), I rarely, if ever, read anything else. While I cherish that time in my life, and am so grateful for the privilege of working with some of the most amazing young people I could imagine, if I could go back and do it all over again, I'd change some stuff. LOTS of stuff. But most importantly, I'd read more.
Because I'd have been better at connecting my students with the right book at the right time.
Because I'd have been better at understanding their journeys.
Because I'd have had more and better conversation starters.
Because I'd have been that much smarter and, probably, a little happier.
Because students need reading role models.
Because stories connect us.
The list goes on and on.
These days, when I feel compelled to prioritize "real work" over reading, I create reasons to read. I give myself permission to read for pleasure, because doing so is also reading for purpose. That's one of the reasons I created #2jennsbookclub with my friend Jennifer Northrup... and it's also part of why I've been heartened to see so many classroom teachers (in addition to school librarians) take part:
So... if you're waiting for someone to give you permission to read (or just read more) for pleasure. Here it is: The top 5 reasons (in no particular order) why you should stop what you're doing and join #2jennsbookclub.
Your coolness factor will go way up. Yeah. I said it. There's never been a time when being a nerd has been cooler. And there's no cooler nerd than a book nerd.
You'll be better at your job. CS Lewis famously said that we read to know that we are not alone. Adolescence can be a time of trauma and isolation, as a reader, you'll know just the right books to help your students know that they are not alone.
Free books! At the end of each of our twitter chats, I give away copies of the books we're reading!
You'll gain (or add to) your very own "reading posse." The people who participate in #2jennsbookclub are smart, thoughtful, and generous. During the course of our conversations they share teaching strategies, ideas for connecting kids with books and their passion for growing readers. They are truly the best part of our virtual bookclub experience.
Reading is awesome. Enough said.
Join us! OR join my friend Tavia Clark's #yearofya bookclub OR the incredibly awesome #sharpschu bookclub (started by John Schumacher and Colby Sharp) OR the ever popular #nerdybookclub (started and maintained by, among others, Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp)! Whatever you do, don't let being a grown up keep you from reading. Because reading is the real work of all learners. Because reading is not something extra. It's something essential. And because your students need you to.