That Crazy Book Lady by Hope Gregory

“Oh man, we got that crazy book lady.” This was one of the first statements I heard as my new crew of 5th graders made their way into my hive. Ha! I love that I’m known as the crazy book lady because…well…it is so true! I’m that person that sits in a drive thru and is so busy reading a book people have to honk at me to move forward. (On a side note, I no longer do this at red lights) I have had an insatiable appetite for reading since I finally learned how to read. It took me a bit longer than most, but oh…when it happened, I never stopped. Thankfully my parents understood my need and always encouraged me. That’s what all young readers need, encouragement, and access to books without an assignment looming about the book they read. Nothing kills a good read more than a senseless project.

As I introduced myself to my kids, I asked them what they wanted to know about me. One adorable little girl pointed to my extraordinary class library (I’m quite proud to have over 3,000 books!) and asked if I had read ALL OF THOSE. I smiled my best smile and said…almost all. Their eyes grew wide and I went on to explain that many of those books that sit waiting for them to peruse used to be my children’s, others are great reads I had discovered, and some even used to be mine when I was their age. For some reason they tend to believe it is impossible for a book to be around that long (grr). One astute boy went on to say-“You bought all of those? You could have bought a car for that!” I smiled and told him yes I did buy them and there is no way a car could have ever taken me as many places as those books have. It seems every year I get the kids that take pride in telling me they don’t like to read. I hear the groans when I tell them that reading will be the center of everything we do. I just smile, hand them their brand new book mark and say…”Challenge accepted. Now let’s find everybody a book!”

It’s not just my students I feel the need to convert. I harass my co-workers into reading. I can’t stand to hear somebody tell me they don’t have time to read. They have to deal with kids, husbands, cooking, blah, blah, blah. I usually tell them it sounds like they really need a break and I have a good book they can read while on that break. My children have known since they were tiny that books take a priority over groceries in our house. As a teacher that gets paid once a month, many times I would be faced with the ‘good’ groceries at the end of the month, or the newest book in a series that one of my children were dying to read. Score one for the book. Hey, Chef Boy R Dee has vegetables in it, so don’t judge me, anyhow I prefer to feed the need to read.

Books have always been central to me. From the little girl that used to devour all things Judy Blume to the sullen teenager that was engrossed in Agatha Christie, every significant moment in my life can be marked by a book. Are You There God, it’s me Margaret helped explain that whole puberty thing.  Stephen King took me through my college years. The Harry Potter series kept my own kids and I connected, and The Shack brought me comfort when my dad died. In my teaching life I turn to the greats daily when I am trying to find a way to help my students-Harvey, Kissner, Miller, Atwell, Gallagher, Anderson-They are side by side with me in my class as I strive to grow readers and writers. No matter what the challenge, personal or professional, a book has always been with me like a steadfast friend that always knows what to say.

Reading has shaped so much of my life that I want to share it with everyone. My dream as a teacher is to turn every child I meet into a reader. To find the book that inspires them to love reading so much they curl up under their covers with a flashlight and a book because they just have to know what happens next. I want them to feel the way I do when I finish a book, bittersweet, sad to say goodbye but excited to see what possibilities lie in between the covers of my next book.

Hope Gregory is a 5th grade teacher in Desoto County, MS.  She divides her time between her home, her classroom, and the great reads section at her local bookstore. She is the proud mom of three great teenagers and four equally great dogs.