Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Connections through Books

In case you are wondering, I identify as a reader. If you aren't new to this blog, this is no surprise. I read a lot. Less than many of my friends, but more than the average person I'd venture to guess. I talk about books ad nauseam. To everyone. Getting my teeth cleaned, having my eyebrows waxed, taking a ride in an Uber, getting a drink from a bartender - all times in the last six months that I have recommended a book to someone. 

One of the reasons that I'm so vocal about my love of books, so free with my recommendations, is that I want to be a resource for my community. There's the saying, Bloom where you're planted. Well, I'm planted in the middle of some corn and soybean fields in central Illinois. Our town is tiny, around 5000 people, but most folks here know me and know my love of reading. I recommend books for gifts, suggest books to former, current, and future students struggling to find a match. I've had a book group for friends who wanted to share a story together, run reading camps from my home, and donated more books around town than I can count. My goal is simple, I want everyone to find a book they love. I want everyone to have a reading role model in case they don't live with one. I know the power of that role model. I know the power of a love of reading. My goal is next to impossible, but it doesn't mean I will give up.

A colleague recently teased me about my passion, telling me that I could relax and let go a bit. Yet I can't. I believe we all have a purpose in this world. This is mine. I connect to people through books. I also connect people to books. It is the best job in the world. 

This week I've had two parents kindly share with me a story that made my day. My week even. One parent texted me early in the morning. I was driving back from swimming laps at the Y in a nearby town before school began. I looked at the text message and saw that it was from a former student's mom. I had told him to read Winger by Andrew Smith. He had just finished and told his mom that he had never cried over a book before. My heart soared. When I saw him at school I smiled and said, "Winger?" He grinned and told me not to worry, he was already reading Stand Off. A reader and book (and possibly author) had made a match. Yes!

Then tonight a friend posted on Facebook the post below: (reprinted here with her permission) 

There is so much I love about this. I love that my mom read the March trilogy because when she subbed in my classroom last month, my students begged her to read it so they could talk with her about them the next time she came in. I love that she recommended them to her friend (my friend's mom) as a gift for Easter for her grandchildren. I love that her grandchildren, my friend's children, loved them so much they begged their parents to read them. And the parents recommended it to more of their family. And then the dad (also one of my childhood friends) went to DC. 

And then he met John Lewis. 


Seriously, I have the best job in the world. I talk about stories. I connect to kids through their reading and writing. Some days are easier than others, but every single day I feel like I'm making a difference. 

Stories connect us all. I firmly believe that. And if we could just get more people to read. If we could just read about more people who are not like ourselves. If we could learn to see ourselves in others. If we could walk in their shoes, just for a bit. This world would be a better place.

That is my dream.

That is my mission.

I'm going to get there. One book and one kid at a time.