Her Book by Gigi McAllister
It is around 7:00 in the evening and my daughter Molly and I are snuggled together on the couch reading aloud from a book with an almost empty box of tissues between us. We are a sobbing, blubbering mess and I couldn’t be happier. The book we are finishing is Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s powerful tearjerker, One for the Murphys.
I have written about my struggles as a reader here at Nerdy Book Club before. When I had my daughter, I was determined that she would be a reader. I did everything that parents are “supposed” to do. I read aloud to her starting from infancy, brought her to the library regularly, shared my reading life with her and bought her every book a little girl could want. It turns out that parents can do everything right and a kiddo can still not love to read.
She is in sixth grade now. She absolutely loves school and always has. Her teachers are her idols and, unfortunately, none of them has been truly crazy about reading or connected with her through books since first grade. Her school district has a scripted program for grades K-5 that, in my opinion, kills the love of reading. Instead of reading books at school, she has been reading anthologies and leveled readers with weekly quizzes. Gee, I wonder why she has never liked to read?
This school year she has started to read a bit more. In her school library there is a chart to keep track of students who are reading this year’s state award books. She decided to put her name on the list and read a few. I was very happy that she was reading more and seemed to enjoy her books. One afternoon, I arrived home to see her holding One for the Murphys. “Yay! You’re reading One for the Murphys. I love that book.” I squealed. I tried not to get overly excited because nothing kills her interest in a book more than my excitement.
“Yeah, it’s really good so far” was her response. I celebrated secretly and tentatively, knowing her track record for frequently abandoning books. But, to my delight, she kept reading it. Soon she was telling me what was happening with Carly and the Murphys and sharing her feelings about this emotionally charged book.
We finished reading the book aloud together, taking breaks to cry and hug each other. Her reaction at the end of the book took me completely by surprise. “I hate this book!” she wailed as she hurled it across the living room. She cried as though her heart was breaking into pieces because that is exactly how she felt. (Spoiler alert) “Why did she have to goooo?” she wailed. “I need to know what happens to her!” It was the most precious moment we have shared with a book and I will treasure it forever.
In that moment One for the Murphys became HER book, the book that changed her as a reader. She was so affected that she wanted to share this book with the world. She begged me to help her start a blog so that she could tell others about books she was reading.
She has posted a few times on this blog if you would care to check it out. It is called Molly’s Crazy About Books. Reading is still not her favorite activity, but I know now that she will become a reader because she found THE book that spoke to her.
Molly was excited about my NCTE haul.
This hat is just like the one Mr. Murphy gives Carley.
I told this story to several people at NCTE in Boston. Most reacted with versions of “She found her book.” So I pose these questions to you my nerdy friends. Do YOU have a book that ignited your reading fire? What books have spoken to your students? Your children? What do you do to connect students to their book?
Gigi McAllister teaches 4th grade in Gorham, Maine. Since she was a reading late bloomer, she is trying to make up for lost time by reading all the children’s books she can. She is committed to helping her students become lifelong readers. She serves on the Maine Reading Association executive board and nErDcamp Northern New England planning committee. She blogs about books and reading at www.thelatebloomersbookblog.blogspot.com You can also visit her on Twitter at @GigiMcAreads.