Monday, October 25, 2010

You are What You Read

On Friday, October 29th, Scholastic is launching You Are What You Read, an initiative for people to think about and reflect on which five books have shaped their lives. When I first read about this, I was intrigued. I found myself thinking back over many, many years trying to figure out which books have molded me into the person that I am. My memories of childhood reading are somewhat limited because I was a sporadic reader. When I’d finished Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume by fourth and fifth grade, I didn’t read again till eighth grade when I discovered V.C. Andrews. After that, I didn’t read again until I was a sophomore. At that time I got into The Clan of the Cave Bear (Amazon Affiliate Link) series and fell in love with Ayla and all things Neanderthal (maybe that explains my high school boyfriend?)

But shaped me as a person? Certainly these books entertained me, but they didn’t leave me in a state of pensive reflection. In fact, I can’t help but think that as a child, reading was a bit passive for me. When I finished a book, I slammed the cover shut and when outside to play. It has only been in adulthood that I have discovered the lingering effects of reading. Now, it seems that everything I pick up moves me and changes me in both small and big ways. Now, narrowing it down to five is difficult. However, after much thought, these are the five titles that make me who I am:

Who Moved my Cheese by Dr. Spencer Johnson
Who Moved My Cheese (Amazon Affiliate Link) came into my life at exactly the time I needed it to. A few years back, my career felt at a crossroads. My children were reaching school age and I wondered if I wanted to go back into the classroom or continue working as a staff developer. As a staff developer, I felt I had been talking the same game for five years and what I had to offer was getting stale. Who Moved My Cheese gave me a new way to look at and think about making change and helped me to realize that my block of cheese was whittling away and the time had come to find new cheese. Reading this book unleashed in me an intense quest for new “cheese” that I am hoping never ends…

What Really Matters for Struggling Readers  (Amazon Affiliate Link) by Richard Allington
On my quest for new cheese, I found this book. Never has one book ever clarified in such simple terms what needs to change and happen in order to help children on the path to greater reading proficiency. In this book, Richard Allington spells out what children need to become more proficient: Books that match their ability level, practice (lots of it), and expert guidance. As far as books go, for me, this one was transformational. Now, every lesson I teach mirrors these tenets.

Outliers (Amazon Affilate Link) by Malcom Gladwell
Richard Allington told me that practice is really important if we want to help children become more proficient readers, but in Outliers, Malcom Gladwell sealed the deal. I have always felt a bit envious of the super talented and the super successful. Why not me, I’d wonder and shake my head at picking the short straw in the “gifts” department. Nothing has ever compelled me more or helped me to reach new understandings about how the cards fall more than Outliers. Malcom Gladwell helped me to realize that talent and success are more the result of hard work and proximity than they are luck of the draw.

A Whole New Mind (Amazon Affiliate Link) by Daniel Pink
In the way that Malcom Gladwell helped me to think differently about success, Daniel Pink helped me think differently about everything. As I read this book, I felt a call to action. While I think Daniel Pink meant to speak to a wide audience of service providers and business people, I couldn’t help but wonder what we need to do differently in education “to think outside of the box.” Daniel Pink showed me what can happen when we think and do things differently. The results can be transformational. I embrace reform because of this book.

Hey World, Here I Am (Amazon Affiliate Link) by Jean Little
In the spirit of looking with “a whole new mind,” this is the book that never ceases to surprise me of its potential. Of all the books I have listed here, this is the one I have known the longest. It has been a text that I have used since the inception of my career. It is filled with stories that I keep going back to for the purpose of demonstrating absolutely everything and anything I need to. Every time I read these little vignettes, I see new possibilities. I love it because I couldn’t teach without it.

So, these are the titles that have shaped me. Now I want to know, which titles have molded you?

1 comment:

@creativeedu said...

I posted a link to your blog post on the Creative Education Daily Digest because I thought other teachers would find it of interest: