Blueprint in a Book

As a child, I don’t recall ever seeing either of my parents read a book. Neither of them shared a favorite title or took me to the bookstore. The only books in our home were the ones I supplied myself, my temporary treasures from libraries carted home with pleasure in hands that could barely carry them.

My home was a place where grownups worried and struggled to survive. (My parents did the best they could. It was all they knew.)

So I filled the empty spots and dark days with Nancy Drew, Little House on the Prairie, and the Hardy Boys. I read every book I could find, comforting myself in language and story. Intuitive teachers somehow knew which books I needed, and kindly allowed me free reign in their classroom libraries. I could be trusted to return every book. And every book would be read.

I particularly loved reading funny, light-hearted stories about large families. They taught me how homes were supposed to be. Fathers had jobs. Mothers were happy. Kids could be kids and trouble themselves only with tree houses and best friends. Homes could be pleasant places filled with laughter.

In the pages of books, I also learned life-changing kinds of things: people could make plans and achieve goals. People could overcome obstacles. People could transcend their lot. There WAS another way to live.
And so I began charting my course. With each title I read, I was slowly mapping out a blueprint for my future. (Scholarships. College. Writing. Teaching. A Master’s degree.) A life filled with books that belonged to me.

Books became more than stories on a page: they were advice-givers, hope-dispensers, dream-prompters, warning-givers, cheerleaders—and friends.

Driven by hope, I plowed through the challenges in my life and went to college (though statistically I wasn’t supposed to). I stayed on course and began a wonderfully satisfying teaching career. Now I fill my own classroom library. I lend out my own books. I do my own read-alouds! Imagine! I make it my mission to supply every student in my charge with the right book at the right time. When I discuss good books with my students, I am happier than I can say. Books help me connect with my class. Books give my students common ground. Books create community in my classroom.

In my own home, I surround myself with book stacks. They are everywhere in my house, not relegated to one particular room. They are on shelves, waiting in baskets, sitting on ledges. They are stacked on my dining room and kitchen tables. I cannot ever have enough books, and I am constantly acquiring more. (One of the greatest joys in my life is hearing my husband say, “Your box arrived”.)

I gather books like they are lost jewels, on the hunt for them in bookstores and libraries. When I spot the title I am looking for on a shelf, waiting for me, I want to shout with the elation of a receiver who has scored in the end zone in the final seconds of the 4th quarter. But, as decorum dictates, I simply close my eyes, hug the book, and smile.

Now, books are accompaniments to a peaceful life. They make my days sweeter and richer, like chocolate sprinkles on a buttercream cupcake.

So, when I came upon Nerdy Book Club on Twitter, I wanted to know more. Was it only for people who knew each other – old friends who reunited yearly at NCTE and ALAN? Was it only for librarians? Did I have to have a certain number of followers?

I humbly requested membership. Thankfully, Colby and Donalyn approved my entrance. I was accepted! There was no application fee. No interview process. All I had to do was read and share titles.

It is a privilege to be in the club. I vow to be a faithful member. I’ll bring cupcakes to all our meetings! I’ll type and mail out the minutes! And, oh, yes, I will read. For the rest of my life.

Cynthia Alaniz


Cynthia is a 4th grade teacher, team leader, and language/literacy content specialist in Texas. She has a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and is a Teacher Consultant with the National Writing Project. She was named her district’s Elementary Teacher of the Year in 2009, and Super Teacher in 2010 and 2011.  She has been teaching for 22 years. She is a book blogger and shoe-shopper– and a very proud member of the Nerdy Book Club.