My Life As a .. Reader

Remembering back to how I become a reader is a faint memory. Frank and Joe Hardy, The Boxcar Children and anything written by Matt Christopher were the books/authors that had me begging my parents to take me to the local library each week during my elementary school years.

Can you guess which years most of my reading came from girls’ notes and hanging out on a Island with Blue Dolphins and learning about an Animal Farm? This is all I can about reading those three years of school. I know one thing though, I wasn’t begging to go to the library.

Thank goodness Cliff wrote his notes or else I would have not gotten through Romeo and Juliet, Death of a Salesman or any other book during the high school years. My sophomore year, I do remember reading poetry, poetry and more poetry. I actually loved it because my teacher brought in music and we had to read the lyrics and talk about what they meant to us. That was the one time I could say I enjoyed reading after elementary school.

Running down the hallways to get to and from the Title I reading teacher is  the one memory I have left out of my history of reading. Looking back at it all, I never knew I had a problem with reading in elementary school. How did the teachers know that I had a problem? Fountas and Pinnelll hadn’t made it into the schools. In middle school, I wasn’t pulled out for extra help during school, but worse, after school, twice a week. Flash cards, more flash cards and extra homework from the tutor. Who signed me up for this torture? High school is when it clicked and I started to see reading as enjoyment, something I would need to do the rest of my life.

The college years. What can you say about college and reading? I do remember really enjoying my Children’s Literature class. This is the class that you had to pick books to fit the holidays or special events for each month of the school year. Other then that, most of my reading was with big, expensive text books. Wish I could had the opportunity to rent them on my Nook instead of trading back in and only getting five dollars back for a ninety-dollar book.

My first five years of teaching, I didn’t do any reading of books other then the ones I was using in the classroom. Fast forward to my sixth year of teaching, second year in fourth grade. I hear all the buzz about this kid named Percy Jackson and decide I will give it a try. Why not? It is a book for kids and I should have no problem. To the surprise of my wife, I brought the book home and was reading it at night, after school. This book is what changed my life as a reader. I enjoyed it so much, talked to the students about it and got them hooked on it. I continued to read the rest of the series by Rick Riordan. So did my students because we could talk about the books together.

It has been four years since I discovered Rick Riordan and his books. Percy taught me a lot back then. One of the most powerful things we do for students is look them right in the eye and say, “You will love this book because I did.”

My arsenal of recommended books is growing by the week. I read books that my students read. It helps me relate to students, talk to students and motivate the students. Why didn’t I listen to the Nerdy Book Club creators earlier? Why didn’t I discover goodreads earlier? II wish my elementary teachers would have left a book and note for me saying how much they enjoyed this book and thought of me.

Happy Reading,

Erik Wittmer

Erik Wittmer teaches Fifth Graders at Park Hills Elementary, in Hanover, PA. He posts his book reviews on his blog