Sunday, January 1, 2012

Quiescit Anima Libris - The soul (spirit) finds respite in books.

I was born into a world of reading. Some of my earliest memories involve sitting on my father's lap and reading the comics. Or, going to the library with my mother to check out the same book every week just because I loved the illustrations. I had a library card by the time I was three and have always had one since. My mother became my school librarian and later worked at a bookstore. In our house, the entry hallway was lined with five tall bookshelves brimming with books. It is no wonder that I am a bibliophile.

However, the last few years has seen a decline in my own readerly life.  What is a readerly life you might ask? Although there is not one set definition, having a readerly life means being immersed in reading, excited about books, and eager to share your reading. As a graduate student, I am currently doing research in an elementary classroom. During the first quarter of the year, the students explored what it meant to have a readerly life. They learned about choosing books at their appropriate level, having a plan for reading, responding to what they were reading, and sharing their reading with others. This is something very typical for many elementary classrooms that are using the reading workshop format. Lucy Culkin is the guru of the readerly life for elementary teachers. However, I am much more well-versed on the reader workshop model by Nancie Atwell and Linda Rief, who are better known at the secondary level. In my own classroom, I have tried to set up an environment where students are immersed in books of their own choosing, given time to read, and have the opportunity to talk with their peers about their reading.

Strangely, as a graduate student I have not had these opportunities. I have been told what to read, how to read it and how to respond to it. The only time in the past few years that I have read" fun" books was at the and of the semester or on vacation. Recently, I was paging through Nicholas Carr's book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains and recognized that many of the things he identifies as changes in how we think because of the internet are true for me. I have not engaged in sustained silent reading for a long time. It seems my concentration is lacking. And I have only responded to book in soundbites. Book sharing sites, such as the reviews on Amazon or, one of my favorites, are nice, but it is basically Facebook for readers - comments are limited and superficial. I have found that I greatly miss my readerly life.

It is the beginning of the new year. Although many people make resolutions, I tend to shy away from resolutions. Eric Zorn, a columnist and blogger for the Chicago Tribune is attributed with saying, “Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility. Breaking them is part of the cycle." It is almost a joke to make a resolution and then break it. I think Tom Morris, a turn-of-the-century professional golfer, summed it up well when he said, "A goal is not the same as a desire, and this is an important distinction to make. You can have a desire you don't intend to act on. But you can't have a goal you don't intend to act on." I think resolutions are desires - to quit smoking, to lose weight, to become a vegetarian. Therefore, this year I am setting intentions. According to the dictionary, an intention is "a course of action that one intends to follow." My intention for this year is to read more" fun" books. In other words, I would like to read the books that I have chosen to put on my bookshelf.  And being the good teacher that I am, I know that having a goal of “more", is not Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, or Timely. So my SMART goal or intention for this year is to read one "fun" book a week, and to make myself accountable, I will blog about it.

So, what are these books that I'm going to read? They are the books that have been piling up on my bookshelf for the last four years. I had lived overseas for 10 years before returning to the States. The first week I moved into my new home, the local library had a used book sale. After 10 years of walking into foreign bookstores that had thousands of books that I could not read, I went a little crazy and bought grocery bags full of books. Since that time, I have also joined Paperback Swap, which is an amazing website to swap or recycle books. In addition I have both a mother and a mother-in-law who are voracious readers. They keep giving me books, then asking if I've read them. I feel both sad and embarrassed when I have to say that I have not. I have more" important" reading to do. But what could be more important than losing myself in a book? Fran Lebowitz, an American author and columnist said, “To lose yourself in a book is the desire of the bookworm. I mean to be taken. That is my desire.” It is my hope that you will become a bibliophilic bookworm with me!

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