My Life as a Reader by Vanessa L. Capaldo

“Read like a wolf eats.” –Gary Paulsen

Ever since I learned to read at age four, I have been a voracious reader. I come by this naturally. My mother was and is still an avid reader and we read the same books and share our views on an ongoing basis. I owe my love of reading to her.

One particular reading memory stands out to me. One summer Saturday, I was engrossed in a Harriet the Spy book. When my mother called me for lunch, I remember being surprised as I looked out the living room window. It was not raining as I had believed. It was a beautiful sunny day. It was then I realized that I could lose myself in a book.

In college, I majored in English Literature. At the time, I did not choose this major to become a writer or a teacher. I simply wanted to read good literature and discuss it with my peers (a pretty expensive book discussion group, but I got a degree out of it.) I worked at a bookstore during this time and I loved every minute of it. I had any book I could ever want at my fingertips. I read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to. The whole of my twenties was engulfed in books.

When I became an English teacher six years ago, it seemed the natural career for me. I could teach my students my favorite books and share the joy of reading with them. This is when I learned that not everyone loves to read. Many of my students listed reading at the top of their most hated things to do list. I was discouraged by this my first year of teaching, but eventually I began to see this as a challenge: I would get them to love reading as much as I did. Armed with the best book on the subject, The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, I began to turn my non-readers into readers.

I began to read young adult novels so that I could make recommendations to my students. I share what I am reading with my seventh and eighth graders and my excitement about what I am reading excites them in turn. This school year I plan on getting my Pre-AP students to create book trailers and present them to the class.

These days, I never go anywhere without a book. There are books in my car, bedroom, each of my bathrooms, living room, guest room, daughter’s room and kitchen (and not just cook books). One of my biggest fears is being caught somewhere and having to wait an inordinate amount of time and not having something to read. I read constantly, both for pleasure and for professional development. Reading is one of the greatest joys of my life and I consider being an English teacher a blessing. I think about this every time I open a book and I am thankful.

Vanessa Capaldo is an English teacher in Fort Worth, TX. She lives with her husband and daughter, three cats, two fish, and their many precarious piles of books.