September 4, 2009

Back to School Book Bag

Well this is my last weekend of summer vacation.  As of Tuesday September 8th I will be back in front of 100+ middle schoolers.  As an English teacher I'm always curious about people's experience with reading in school.  I thought it might be fun to share some experiences - from any level,  K-College.  So if you want, add your story. 

Things to think about:
  • A book you were assigned to read and loved
  • What book did you hate
  • What do you remember about learning to read
  • A book you read in school, later reread on your own and your opinion of it changed
  • Any books a teacher read aloud to you
I'll start.  As far as learning to read, I don't remember much about it.  I have a vague memory of sitting in a semi-circle and being asked words, but really it seems like I've always known how to read.

My first memory of a a teacher reading aloud to me was The Cricket in Times Square.  I just thought it was amazing that this cricket could do all those thing.  I've never read it again, because I'm afraid it would ruin the memory.

In high school I read two books that I really didn't like or understand very well (ok, I hated them).  I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane.  Both went well beyond my ability to understand.  I remember being confused from page one with the Red Badge of Courage. Who was tall soldier?  Who was short soldier? And The Jungle was just icky.   I have not read either of these again.  Not sure I want to revisit that experience.

The reading that taught me I loved words and what they are capable of is Walt Whitman's poem "Song of Myself".  I studied it in college when I thought I wanted to be a reporter. I was amazed by what a few - well a lot of - words could say, the images they could create.  That poem changed my mind and set me on the path to teaching. On the lighter side, it also helped me name my dog.  I have a fluffy white dog named Whitman.

As a teacher my favorite part is reading aloud to students.  There are two books that have stood out.  The first is The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy.  Its about a boy who lives in a place where everyone has superpowers except him.  They loved it.  I had students who struggle with reading fight over the second book in the series!  The other book is Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen.  It's a story about a boy learning to take responsibility and forgive.  I taught a class of mostly boys who really struggled with reading - they could relate to the main character.  They completely understood why he acted how he did.  And more importantly, they saw how and why he needed to change. It gave them a good experience with reading - something they don't get very often.  I was lucky to meet Ben Mikaelsen last year and express  my gratitude. 

Ok I've babbled long enough.  Would you care to share?


  1. I can't remember any specific books I read and loved but I do remember that the books I enjoyed were those written from the prospective of a young person.
    It was something I could relate to (like the Chronicles of Narnia).
    I use to hate slow moving dramas.
    Some emotions were just too big for me to understand when I was younger.
    I recently read The Giver (for the first time) and loved it.
    I bet young people would love it.

  2. A lot of school read The Giver, and it is a good book. Funny thing I just reread it can saw things I didn't see the first time through.

  3. I remember reading The Sword and The Stone and The Little White Horse in my last year of juniors. For some reason, those books really stuck in my head. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  4. I've been lucky to have excellent classroom reading experiences, whether it was because of the teacher or because of my classmates. I suppose AP students are a bit more quirky than regular students though.

    The best elementary reading experience was when the teacher read the Shiloh series by Phylis Reynold Naylor out loud, since you can't go wrong with a beagle.

    I really loved reading The Glass Menagerie in 12th grade. We had no real assignments pertaining to it, just read the book and write free response journals, it wasn't all about over analyzing the book. I think that's what was awesome about senior year, we learned to appreciate and love subtleties in literature. We learned to see books as emotional and an extension of ourselves.

    I guess I was blessed with amazing teachers :-)

  5. I have read Touching Spirit Bear and enjoyed it. Wow, I have read a lot great books this summer. =)
    I gave you an award over at my blog:

  6. A book I was assigned to read that I really loved was The Giver by Lois Lowry. I was in 7th grade whenever my whole class was assigned to read this and we dissected it into little pieces. I think what I really loved about the book was that it made me think. I've read it multiple times since then and your perspective on things changes all the time. It made you see that imperfection is beautiful and it makes way for you to enjoy life.

    I can't say that I ever hated a book. I can say some books I very much disliked. One of them was a book I had to read in 4th grade called Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. It was about a boy who is an airplane crash and he has to survive by himself. Like having to fight off a bear or was it a hog, and eating poison berries. All the time having to stay alive. It was boring to me at the time. I remember being sent into the hall to read and put the book down and talk to whoever was with me. It just wasn't very interesting to me at the time.

    I remember reading Dr.Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham multiple times to anyone who would listen whenever I was little.

    Again I would have to say The Giver is a book that my opinion changed whenever I read it later. Though it didn't change from a bad to a good opinion. My perspective of the book of the book changed. Whenever I read it later I realized that their physical attraction, sex, and love are all taken away. To not be able to carry a child and say I Love You. It just broke my heart immensely for the characters.

    I vaguely remember a book in 3rd grade that my teacher read aloud. It was either called Big or Giant. I have searched by still can't not remember what that book is called. I remember the cover and that it was about this giant and that he wasn't very smart. That's all I can really remember about it.

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