A Little Less Conversation: I Think Not by Lindsey Jones
Hello, my name is Lindsey, and I am addicted to books. A few tell-tale signs of my addiction:
- When picking out items for my wardrobe, I ponder, “Could a book fit into that pocket?”
- The stacking of books on my nightstand makes it appear as if a perpetual game of Jenga is going on.
- Motion sickness is something I am willing to suffer so that I can indulge on a plane, train, or automobile. (Oh, and don’t put it past me to read while biking, skating, sailing, or riding a rollercoaster.)
- When my friends come to me for advice, I give them a book to read.
- My last interaction with a police officer didn’t go so well.
Mr. Officer: “Ma’am, I am pulling you over because you were texting while driving. I am sure you are aware it’s illegal to text while behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.”
Me: “Oh, no, Mr. Officer! I was not texting. I was actually just finishing up the latest Laurie Halse Anderson novel on my Nook app. Take a look at this sentence; are her craft moves not amazing?”
Well, maybe I am embellishing just a bit. However, I truly cannot imagine my life without books. For me, reading for pleasure was ingrained from childhood. It is a pastime that fondly arouses some of my earliest memories. From my mother’s vocal renditions of my favorite characters, to staying up late into the night to finish every book in R.L. Stein’s Fear Street series, to huddling around a copy of Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret with a group of awkward-looking girls – words and stories resonate with me in a way in which nothing else can compare.
In John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, my girl Hazel nails it when she says, “Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” Books have always had the power to fill me with zealous enthusiasm which simply cannot be contained. Fortunately, I am surrounded by people who hear my cries from the rooftops; these people serve as epicenters in my reading life, and hopefully, I in theirs. Undoubtedly, family get-togethers often involve book-swapping and chatting about recent reads. The hours spent in the hands of my hair dresser entail conversations about characters and universal themes. It is nearly impossible to withhold thoughts about our book club’s selection until our monthly get-together. It’s just easy to talk to friends, family, co-workers, and even strangers about the books that envelop our lives! There is a reason why social media appeals to the avid reader. Whether it is out of love or hate, anything that evokes such emotion is worthy of conversation. So when I am not conversing directly, I am reviewing on Goodreads, hashtagging on Twitter, and posting pictures on Instagram – all mediums which allow me to flourish as a reader.
Reflecting on my own reading life, I cannot help but ask myself this question: How do we as educators nourish our students’ reading lives? From the earliest age, kids are naturally curious as well as intrinsically driven to learn about the world. Just today, my 20-month-old pulled his shoes off in the car, began sniffing his feet, and licked the bottom of his shoes. There was no prompting, I assure you, but he was curious – about what, I don’t know! He was proud of his discovery, and he wanted to show me a demonstration of his inquiry. My six-year-old son is learning about the world around him through reading, and there are times I find myself drowning in a sea of random facts or plot lines that seem never-ending. However, conversation fuels his passion, and often times, I find myself wanting to learn more about what he has shared with me.
So I ask: Why can’t talking about it just be enough? Through conversations with my own children, discussions within my book club, and comments on my Goodreads posts; it is evident that passion is contagious when it’s shared. I don’t need to write summaries of every chapter I read. I don’t have take a comprehension quiz at the end of the book. No dioramas are necessary. I simply need to converse!
As a literacy specialist in a large district, I am fortunate to work with teachers on a daily basis who are fueling the passion through talk.
From social media in Mrs. Presley’s 8th grade class…
to journaling in Ms. Brunatti’s 7th grade class…
to locker book chats at Horn Lake and Southaven Middle Schools…
to written conversations in Mrs. Cocke’s 7th grade class…
and blogging in Ms. Vaughan’s 8th grade class,
students are spending a lot of time just talking about what they are reading! Other teachers are running classroom literature circles, facilitating student-led book chats, and hosting after-school book clubs. Sometimes there is a criteria and grades are attached, but often times that is not the case. More importantly, students are not asking, “Do we have to do this? Is this for a grade?”. They are reading and sharing and reading some more because it matters; they are finding their reading epicenters, discovering themselves as readers, and nourishing their reading lives.
Lindsey Jones, a former high school English teacher, is a literacy specialist for Desoto County Schools in North Mississippi. She works with middle school teachers and students across the content areas. She enjoys traveling, reading, concert and theatre-going, and chasing after her two sons. She has a passion for literacy, young adult literature, and struggling readers. She is not afraid to abandon a book because, well, she simply won’t live long enough to complete her to-read list.