Books: The Old Fashioned Way

When I was in the seventh grade, I read Helen Keller.  There are many books on her, but this is not my point.  When we were instructed to read a book, it was for pleasure.  It was to experience a story from the author’s point of view.  I remember reading when Helen fell ill, when her nurse Anne came, when she could spell water with her hands.  I don’t remember everything, but I do remember many details about where I was when I read it, and what was happening in my life.

I was at Janelle’s house.  It was after school, and we were eating saltines right out of the bag.  We sat there with our books; we read because we liked it.

Here’s the trouble I’m having.  Reminding the blog reader that I’m new to teaching this subject, I will say that reflecting on every stinkin’ page they read is not what I want my students to do.  Yes, I’m oversimplifying.  What I really desire is for them to have the book for lunch, to read for pleasure and relaxation.  Yes, even to escape.

No book reports, no exams.  Just reading for the pure joy of it.

Today, I created a First Line wall.  The students took the very first line of the book, wrote it out and put it on the picture of a book cover.  It was beautiful.  We talked a lot about what the first sentence of a book does for you.  I told them that if they are reading a dog, to put it down, and exchange it.  Life is too short to read bad books.  

Yeah, I understand that they must understand plot, theme, setting and characterization.  I get that.   It’s my belief that they will get this when they’ve skipped through a fine piece of written work that speaks to them, not when I’ve forced a book down their collective throats.

Can you guess this novel?  Click the link for the answer.

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

My very favorite book, and I never wrote a book report about it.  Not one.