What I am listening to (and enjoying very much!) this week:
Three-and-a-half years ago, I retired from teaching. I am enjoying my retirement very much. My husband and I love getting up each morning and “setting our own agenda,” as I have said numerous times on this blog. But there are days when I miss (very much!) my students and colleagues and the world of my classroom. Reading together was the most joyous part of my teaching experience, so I’d like to share with you this post I wrote in November 2012 about the reading we were sharing and loving in my 2nd Grade classroom.
FALL SHARED READING
When I say that I haven’t been reading very much recently, it’s not exactly true. My own reading has slowed down for many reasons, but I am still reading every day and going through books like crazy! Here’s why…
This is my 27th year of teaching, and this year I have the world’s sweetest class of Second Graders. They love to read and love listening to stories, so we are compiling quite a list of books shared (our Read Aloud books). We have a Read Aloud time every morning after recess, and it’s amazing how many books you can read in just 20-30 minutes a day! Here’s our list of the books we have shared during our Read Aloud time on our Reading Rug so far this year:
- Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola
- Strega Nona: Her Story, by Tomie dePaola
- Big Anthony: His Story, by Tomie dePaola
- Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons, by Tomie dePaola
- Big Anthony and the Magic Ring, by Tomie dePaola
- Strega Nona Meets Her Match, by Tomie dePaola
- Strega Nona Takes a Vacation, by Tomie dePaola
- Strega Nona’s Harvest, by Tomie dePaola
- The Sunflower House, by Eve Bunting
- Tomie dePaola, by Eric Braun
- Mercy Watson to the Rescue, by Kate DiCamillo
- Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride, by Kate DiCamillo
- Akimbo and the Elephants, by Alexander McCall Smith
- Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen
- Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
- Blueberries For Sal, by Robert McCloskey
- Squanto and the Pilgrims, by A.M. Anderson
- Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson (Thanks, Mrs. Lux, for reading this to us at our Halloween party!)
- Gooney Bird Greene, by Lois Lowry
- Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Catwings Return, by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Jane on her Own: A Catwings Tale, by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Currently reading: Helen Keller, by Margaret Davidson
It’s been an emotionally draining week, this election week in the United States. Wise words from an author and from a blogging friend are helping me through the emotional maze. Mary Oliver‘s profound wisdom, as shared in her new book of essays, Upstream, is helping me to understand the bigger picture of what is happening right now. And my friend, Nan (Letters From a Hill Farm) shared an insightful comment on my Instagram post about why I have turned to Mary Oliver this week: “Because she talks about what really matters; what is real; what has been here through all the various presidents, and will continue on.”
As a retired elementary school teacher, I have been very concerned about the impact of this election on all our children. We are seeing reports now of an increase in bullying and hateful rhetoric by young people in our schools and communities. Some are simply mimicking the behaviors of the adults around them, but others are acting out from feelings of powerlessness and confusion.
Adults can change their circumstances. Children are powerless, and in difficult situations they are the victims of every sorrow and mischance and rage around them, for children feel all of these things but without any of the ability that adults have to change them…
But the essay goes on to describe the pathways she, herself, found that took her “beyond such circumstances.”
…Whatever can take a child beyond such circumstances, therefore, is an alleviation and a blessing.
I quickly found for myself two such blessings–the natural world and the world of writing: literature. These were the gates through which I vanished from a difficult place.
In the first of these–the natural world–I felt at ease; nature was full of beauty and interest and mystery, also good and bad luck, but never misuse. The second world–the world of literature–offered me, besides the pleasures of form, the sustentation of empathy (the first step of what Keats called negative capability) and I ran for it. I relaxed in it. I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything–other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned: that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion, that standing within this otherness–the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books–can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.
Her wise words give me hope that we can find positive ways to help our children, and ourselves, through these circumstances and alleviate that feeling of powerlessness…and re-dignify our worst-stung hearts.
The other day I wrote a post confessing that I’m an “escapist” and have turned to my books to get away from this awful election season. This morning I read a different view of that kind of “escape” from the brilliant writer, Alice Munro.
“She read modern fiction too. Always fiction. She hated to hear the word ‘escape’ used about fiction. She might have argued, not just playfully, that it was real life that was the escape. But this was too important to argue about.”
~ from Too Much Happiness, by Alice Munro
(I found this quote and a brief description of this new book on the Vintage Books & Anchor Books Facebook page.)
A slightly different view of the idea of “escape,” but I won’t argue with it and very much like the idea that my reading is my reality and that real life is the alternate reality!
Note to self: I must read more and more Alice Munro!
I am so sad to hear that Natalie Babbitt has passed. She is one of my favorite authors and I loved reading her books aloud to my 6th grade students when I was teaching. Most people remember her as the author of Tuck Everlasting, which is a book I loved and loved to use as a unit of study in the classroom. But my personal favorite of all her books is the hauntingly beautiful love story, The Eyes of the Amaryllis, a story about how love transcends death.
Her writing is so beautiful and her stories so honest and full of wisdom. Her books stole my heart many years ago and I loved sharing them with young people year after year. Her intelligent, beautiful, lyrical voice will be deeply missed!
October just flew by this year and here it is November already. As the days grow shorter and darker, I spend more time reading and listening to audiobooks while doing winter knitting projects. Right now I am reading a number of different things. My current library book is Wild Seed, by Octavia Butler. This is my first time reading her work and I’ve found that I really like her writing. My current Audible listen is J.K. Rowling’s The Silkworm. My current Kindle book is Rules For a Successful Book Club (The Book Lovers, #2), by Victoria Connelly. And a friend loaned me another Kindle book to add to my annual holiday reading project. It’s called A Cornish Christmas, by Lily Graham. There’s no shortage of books to light up these shorter darkening days!
I must admit that I am an escapist. The national election scene in September and October has been an awful place to hang out. Yes, I watched all three presidential debates. Yes, I did my homework on local issues and candidates. And yes, I have voted. But it all left me feeling breathless, cold and shaken as if the Dementors have been hovering nearby!
So my reading list for September and October reflects my need to close out that crazy ugly world of politics and find more uplifting places in which to spend my time. I search for those kinds of books and appreciate so much the ones I find with kindness in them.
There. A kind word, a word of encouragement or admiration, could shift the heaviest, most recalcitrant baggage.
~from Precious and Grace, by Alexander McCall Smith
So, my September and October escapes…
Fall is already here and I haven’t written yet about my summer reading. I had a lovely summer, filled with travel, gardening, reading, and long walks. Despite the busy-ness of the season, I also thoroughly enjoyed my reading on the porch!
I discovered a new-to-me author this summer — Victoria Connelly — and really enjoyed reading numerous of her books. A book by a favorite author, Patricia McKillip, was disappointing to me. I just couldn’t get into it. Perhaps it was just not the right time? Reading Kent Haruf‘s Our Souls at Night was a highlight of the summer. His last book and such a beautiful and tender story, beautifully written, was a real gift to his readers. I also loved reading Gary Paulsen‘s trilogy of memories about his grandmother. What a loving tribute to her! Although I didn’t listen to as many audiobooks as I do during wintertime, I really enjoyed listening to both The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling), and I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith.
So you can see that even though I’ve been quiet on this blog for a few months, reading was an important and delightful part of my summer. I hope you enjoyed your summer reading as much as I did mine!