A Reader’s Legacy by Shawna Ford

When did I begin reading?  I honestly don’t remember.  I just don’t remember ever not reading.  Hopefully this is not a sign of aging  , but more that books and reading have always been a part of my world.  I come from a long line of readers.  My grandmother always had a “to-read” stack, as well as a brown paper bag full of books in her hall closet to pass along to the next reader that happened to drop by.  My mother always has a huge stack of books, admitting to not buying just one book when she goes to the store, but buying several.  Can you ever have too many books?
As a young girl, I remember visiting my grandparents during summers and holidays, and reading was always a part of the day.  In the summer, I would sit on the back porch, enjoying the view of the lake, as well as whatever story I could find in the latest edition of the Reader’s Digest Condensed Book.  There might even be a Nancy Drew book to draw me in, and I would read for hours, which worked out well since my grandmother was lost in a book of her own. Well into her 80’s she would laugh about staying up most of the night to finish a book she had started that day.  I had wonderful reading role models, not pushing books at me, but showing me the joy that can be found in them and allowing me to discover on my own.
Then I grew up and had children of my own.  There was no conscious decision to “make” them into readers, but it seems that it is just in our blood.  My grandmother, my mother, myself, and my daughters all enjoy different types of book, but one of the many bonds that connects us is our love of reading. Books are always on our gift lists, and we try to convince each other to read beyond our comfort zone.  My oldest daughter loves to learn from books, so nonfiction and biographies are her choice.  My mother chooses to be held in suspense by the latest crime novel, while my grandmother would choose a “sappy romance” novel.  And although my youngest is now spending much of her reading time with “required” reading, she can still be hooked by a fantasy or the new best-selling YA series. As for me, I read whatever anyone recommends!  But we are definitely a family of readers!
Yet, what if you don’t grow up in a family of readers?  Where do you learn to love books and discover a world beyond the one in which you live?  School, THAT is where!  Thankfully, readers love to share books and stories, and many teachers/librarians are readers who pass on this love of reading to not only their family, but also to their school family.  Sitting down with a group of students and sharing a book has to be one of the biggest perks of being in education! Watching them laugh, cry, and think while listening to a story gives me a feeling that is difficult to express.  I have been told by students from years past, that their favorite part of the day was when we would gather together, and I would read the next chapter (or two or three!) in our current novel.  Just recently, we were having this discussion at school and a teacher, who struggled some in school, shared his memory of his teacher reading to him and how much he enjoyed that experience. He now shares books with students in our after school program!  While listening to a story, you can forget the negative in the world around you; you can relax and just get lost in the magic of the book. Don’t we ALL need that from time to time?
Our days get so busy with all of the tasks that are required to be completed, that the “extras” such as a sharing a fantastical read with our students get put on the backburner.  Funny though, no student has ever come back to me and said how much they remembered the worksheet, or test preparation that we did. What makes a bigger impact on our students?  Books and sharing our love of literature with them!  Sometimes, the only place kids will have this experience is at school.  As a teacher, but more importantly, as a reader, it is our responsibility to touch as many lives as we can through the sharing of books!

Shawna Ford is in her second year as an elementary librarian and her 20th year in education.  She loves reading and learning, and one of her joys is connecting readers and books, whether at school or out and about in the adult world.  She can sometimes be seen at the circulation desk, eating lunch and trying to sneak in a few minutes of reading.  Shawna can be found at her blog curtiselementarylibrary.blogspot.com and can be followed on Twitter @curtislibrary1.