Sunday, July 17, 2011

What? Not read a book?

What? Is it possible? Never read a book? Read, present tense, definition:  "to read or peruse written or printed matter." But what does that mean? Perhaps an answer becomes clear when we look at etymology (word source and origin).
"Origin: before 900; Middle English reden, Old English rǣdan  to counsel, read; cognate with Dutch raden, German raten, Old Norse rātha;  akin to Sanskrit rādhnoti  (he) achieves." (source:
What's most interesting to this librarian is the Sanskrit: "achieves." What does it mean to "peruse written or printed matter"? If one knows all the skills and applies them to a process of deciphering (basically, reading is deciphering), then meaning occurs. Thus: achievement.
What's the point of finding meaning? I don't know about you, but I would not find life worthwhile if I didn't learn something new, then apply or find meaning, using knowledge gained during that skill-using, deciphering that printed matter, and achieving a new level of existence.
What brought on all this musing are two separate conversations. A week ago a friend from the past called and left two frantic messages on my answering machine. "May I use you as a reference? I have to submit my application right away!" It was hours later when I returned home and this frantic call. I called immediately. My friend from the past was seeking a teaching position in the same school where I taught so long.
During the course of our conversation, I told him about my new personal reading project: Faulkner's novels from beginning to end to look for growth and change. He was so pleased as he, too, is a Faulkner fan. Then he told me his shock: He could not believe that teachers don't read, including English teachers. (He is also an English teacher, as was I.) That's right, I agreed. They don't. There is always some excuse: too many papers to grade, children to raise, husbands, church work, one thing and then another. I told him during all those years of my own lesson plans and paper grading that I always found time to read both for personal relaxation and professional growth. I didn't have to ask--I knew he is also a reader. That teachers, as a whole and generically speaking, don't read is, indeed, shocking. (I'm sorry to reveal this about my profession.)
The other day I connected through Facebook with another friend from the past, a local, public official. He called and we chatted awhile. I asked if he read (remembering my other friend's shock). He said he never reads, other than professionally--reports and such. He named his high school and said students were never required to read a book. I told him if he didn't read, his brain would dry up. He said, exactly. He knew his brain was "dried up" and laughed at himself.
So, it seems to me that, as a librarian, I should do something to keep students interested in reading. Nearly all children love books, their pictures, the pages, turning pages, holding the book. Books are treasures to them and I'm the book goddess. As they reach middle school age, first boys, then girls start dropping books and the reading process. I recommend books, keep displays out that highlight both popular books (Wimpy Kid, Underpants Boy), and lists of books. By 8th grade there are those who are done with books and I cannot convince them otherwise.

Writing this blog has determined my goal for next school year: Keeping books alive, keeping reading alive, keeping that perusal of printed matter going, and keeping brain achievement alive for the rest of their lives. 

Reading as personal pleasure. Reading to develop professionally. Reading for the joy it brings. Reading for a glimpse of human truths, both beautiful and ugly, considering their truths in order to make a difference in the world. In my personal setting (Catholic school), reading to enhance spiritual growth.

Reading is a wonder. I want to be part of a child's discovery and maintenance of this wonder. I'm looking forward to a good year!

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A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.