I had an experience as a reader this week that got my teacher-brain thinking about books and kids, and why the right book at the right time is such a very important concept for us to keep in mind.
I’ve been reading this book…
…and loving it. ELI THE GOOD by Silas House is a beautifully written story about a ten-year-old boy whose family is facing the challenges of change in 1976 — a father haunted by memories of Vietnam, a crazy aunt who’s appeared with a mysterious problem, and a teenage sister who’s pulling away from her parents. This book captures 1976 — the year I remember the bicentennial parade marching down Pine Street, past the Fisher Price toy factory in the town where I grew up. It’s full of those perfect details that make me want to put the book down for a second and just savor the words.
So this book surprised me yesterday when I suddenly didn’t like it any more. Not one bit. I was at my desk at school, reading along with my students during our daily silent reading time after lunch, flipping pages and thinking about how annoyed I was with all the descriptions. These were the same sorts of descriptions I’d savored the day before. Something had changed.
But it wasn’t the book. It was me. Yesterday was one of those particularly stressful days. Just about every free second I had, I’d spent on the phone or writing emails trying to resolve a problem with my son’s class schedule, and I was frustrated. I was not in the mood for rich language or contemplative thoughts. I was in the mood for a fast run around the track or a few good shots at a punching bag. And I just didn’t like my book.
I know this has happened to my students before, and I know I’ve looked at them, bewildered, when they came to tell me they didn’t like their books any more. I remember saying, "But you were loving that book yesterday!" And not thinking that maybe it was just something happening with that reader, that day, that had changed his or her outlook. Next time this happens, I might dig a little deeper to see what’s up, and perhaps offer up a second book for the kid to try out while keeping the first one, just in case he or she wants to give it another shot.
As for me? The schedule issue is resolved, today was much more relaxed, the sun was out, and… I’m back to enjoying ELI THE GOOD. (It really is a great read, my bad attitude notwithstanding, and I’ll post more thoughts when I’m done.)