This spring, Illinois had an insane amount of rain. As in…4 inches per hour. I (Lindsy) am an insanely committed person and as I was walking down the basement stairs to my 4:30am dread-mill workout, I was greeted with a carpet full of sopping wetness. My first thought as my sock absorbed the moisture was, “Oh No!!! My books!”
I remember the exact moment that I became a “reader”. I had a high school English teacher that INSISTED his students read from every genre imaginable. I was so irritated, I already knew that I preferred realistic fiction (aka Laureen McDaniel), why would I want to read a fantasy novel?! Enter stage left…Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, in order to fulfill my fantasy requirement. I only read it because I had to. I didn’t really love it, but I MAY have checked out Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, on a Tuesday after school before volleyball practice.
Fast forward almost 15 years later, and I am sharing photos on twitter of my June “book stack” and then my July “book stack”. This summer my 9 and 6 year old have spent hours sorting books. It is extremely pleasing to see my son and daughter sneaking glimpses of illustrations as they place books on shelves in what we call the “toy room” (editor’s note: there are far more books than toys).
Under my daughter’s pillow you won’t find loose teeth, you will find piles of picture books, she can’t sleep without them. There are mornings when I look at the bags under my son’s eyes and ask “what book did you finish last night?” because I know…he is just like his momma, and he didn’t go to bed until he read the epilogue.
The first step is admitting you have a problem. So here goes…I, Liz Garden, have a problem. I just can’t say no to books. When I pack for a trip, the number of books might occasionally outnumber my articles of clothing. I have more bookshelves than any other piece of furniture in my house. I have an intimate relationship with my Amazon cart that is always full of books just waiting for me to hit the submit button. And while I don’t know the names of most of the streets near my neighborhood, I can tell you exactly how to get to at least 6 different bookstores that are within a 25 mile radius of my house. Yes, I have a problem.
While I am fairly certain my mother, a fellow avid reader, had a hand in the start of this problem, I know that I can pinpoint one teacher who lit the reading spark for me, actually he more like doused my reading bonfire with gasoline. Funny thing is, he steered me onto the path of reading addiction by not teaching me reading. Mr. Page was my 1st grade teacher. I was the student that made him scratch his head and go “hmmm.” I entered 1st grade reading at a 6th grade level. There was no color coded reading group for me. So what did Mr. Page do? He sent me to the library and said “read.” So I did. I read and read and read. I spent the majority of my first grade year reading my way through our school library. After that, I was so far gone down the rabbit hole of reading that there was no turning back.
Today, I am no longer a 1st grader, although as a principal I definitely get to hang out with a lot of 1st graders, and I certainly don’t get to spend all day in the library reading, but books are still a huge part of my life. I like piles. And there is just something awesome about a pile of books waiting to be opened and read. If I were to give you a tour of my house, these are some of the piles we might discover. In my kitchen, naturally there are piles of cookbooks, but there is also a pile of young adult books that I recently bought after some friends recommended them. Next to my bed, which also has built in shelves in the headboard that hold…you guessed it, books, on top of the dresser, there is an inspirational pile of professional books, fun summer reading books, and a positive thinking quote book. On the couch, there is a pile of picture books that I have read and will be recommending to teachers as read alouds. In the bathroom, (come on you all know you need books in the bathroom), there is a pile with a graphic novel, a Dr. Seuss book belonging to my daughter and a book about behind the scenes of the making of the movie “The Princess Bride.” On the dining room table, there’s a pile of books that I brought back from some of the conferences I attended this year. And in my daughter’s nursery and playroom…I don’t think I have time to list all of the book piles you would find. Right now, she’s actually asleep in her crib, where she requested her stuffed elephant, her blankie and naturally, her books, when I put her to bed.
Yes, I have a problem. I am a readaholic, and I am proud of that fact. And lucky for me I have a job where I get paid to encourage others, adults and children, to become readaholics! I especially love that I am creating my own mini-me book lover, my daughter. When I was pregnant with her, and I went for my big ultrasound, the doctor may have been shocked, but the image that I saw on the screen came as no surprise to me…
The Making of a Readaholic
- Make reading appeal to kids! You can make the most boring thing sound amazing just by the tone of your voice. Reading is far from boring, but some kids need us to “sell” it before they are interested.
- Read aloud books that appeal to kids, not just books that appeal to you. I am gladly suffering through a Fantasy series with my son now, because he loves it (only three books left!).
- Create your reading mantra and repeat it to kids whenever you get the chance. I go into all of the classrooms at the beginning of the year and start with saying something like “You all know what my favorite thing in the whole wide world is, right?” And by now, most of the kids know and will shout out READING!
- Give kids choice! Let them choose what they want to read. We all suffered through whole class novels, but that doesn’t mean that our students today need to do that. You need to give kids a chance to self select what they want to read. And in order to do that, you also need to have lots and lots and lots of books for them to choose from. Did I say give them choice? Can’t repeat that enough!
- As the Queen of Readaholics, Donalyn Miller, herself would say, be a reading role model. “Adults who read and share their love of reading with kids send a powerful message that reading matters for personal reasons, not just academic ones.” Oh Donalyn, you are my reading hero!
- No one is too old for a read aloud. I don’t care whether you are a 5-year-old who is literally hanging onto my leg while I read or a 15-year-old who sits back, contemplating and relating to the words being spoken, everyone loves to listen to a good story. If you haven’t done a read aloud in front of a group of adults, then you haven’t really lived. Try it at your next staff meeting!
- Talk about books with kids whenever you get a chance. Ask them what they are reading. Really listen to what they are saying about the book, the characters, the connections. If they aren’t reading a book, recommend one to them. Make it so that book discussion is a natural part of any conversation.
- Classroom libraries and school libraries need to be full of good books. Make sure that kids have access to the awesome new books that are continually being published. Way back in 2002, an NAEP report stated, “When students are provided with well-designed classroom libraries, they interact more with books, spend more time reading, exhibit more positive attitudes towards reading, and exhibit higher levels of reading achievement.” There you have it…survey says…if you fill those libraries with books, they will come.
- Socialize around reading. Offer book clubs. Have a “dress like a book character” spirit day! Post graffiti walls where kids can write about books and make recommendations to other kids. Get kids to blog about their reading. Invite authors to visit or talk with students through social media. Host a book battle. The list goes on and on of how you can get kids interacting and socializing around books.
- The most important way to make a readaholic…give kids time to read. It really is that simple.
Here’s to all of the teachers that establish a love of reading in a child, whether a parent, educator, librarian, or fellow readaholic!