Friday, August 24, 2007

What's On Your Reading List?

As a teacher, my goal is to teach and influence the children I serve. I don’t know how much I have accomplished over the years in influencing the lives of my students, but I know that they have influenced and taught me perhaps far more than I have ever given to them. Just in the area of good literature, my own two children have spurred me to go far beyond what I normally would read.

Recently my reading habits have been reduced to email, internet blurbs, and the occasional John Grisham novel. Yet this summer, my younger daughter had to read three books of classic literature to prepare for her senior AP English class. We agreed we would read several of the books together so she would have someone to talk to about them. So this summer, I have read, “Pride and Prejudice: by Jane Austin, “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw. My, oh my! For someone used to writing and reading tight, fast paced articles, the long descriptions and introspective morality and social climate discussions have been quite a stretch. I thought I would get bored or have trouble focusing on the page long paragraphs that, according to modern publishing circles, didn’t move the plot along. Frankly, I’ve enjoyed this slower pace of literature. It’s literature you want to ponder, not rush through to see “who done it?” It poses great thoughts. And best of all, it shows that human nature and society of yesterday and today are still very similar. It’s been a stretching experience and I wouldn’t have done it without the challenge of my daughter. I will admit, I’m very glad someone made a musical out of “Pygmalion.” Much improved!

The influence of their reading habits is nothing new. When they were in elementary school, I was introduced to the whimsy of “Good Night Moon” and “The Very Quiet Caterpillar.” We read together the Little House on the Prairie books, the Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, and Tom Sawyer. Their middle school had a Battle of the Books program with quiz bowl type teams who answered questions on twelve different books. They brought home lists of some of the top Newberry and Caldecott book winners. And so I was introduced to “Holes,” “Bogart,” and “The Midwife’s Apprentice.”

One of their reading habits has pricked my conscience over and over, and inspired me to get back on track. Both of them read their Bibles daily. While we’ve emphasized the importance of Bible study in our house, I’m not sure they got this habit from me. I used to read my Bible shortly after they left for school, so they never really saw me establishing a devotional time of my own. I admit, I’ve let it slip over the years. Too often, my devotional time ends up as studying for a Sunday School lesson. As we started the new school year, I got up the first morning to find my high school senior daughter had not changed. Her light was on and she was quietly reading. I’m inspired to follow her lead and this final year of school, make Bible reading an everyday part of my day.

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