My Heart Belongs to Augustus by Beth Robertson
My girlfriends already know this, my husband suspects, so I guess it should be here on this blog I admit, I have a boyfriend. He is great with his words and possesses all the qualities a book lover as myself would want in a companion. You probably guessed he is fictional. His name is Augustus Waters; and if my husband Dan wrote me a love letter, I’d want it to be just like the last few pages of The Fault in Our Stars.
The letter Augustus wrote at the end of the book haunted me. I’d reread every morning for days after I finished the book. I’d come out for coffee with tears streaming down my face. Dan would hand me my mug and shake his head. After a week or so of this craziness, he told me to let it rest and stop reading it! It was making me so sad, why was I subjecting myself to this?
But isn’t that just why we all read books, to be taken to a place we’ve never been? To be swept into kingdoms far away, to have our breath knocked out by a twist of fate we never saw coming? Books are magic. In our heads, we live out the story on the pages, but then shared with others; it changes into a whole other story.
I have always been rather shy and unsure of myself. As the youngest child with siblings a decade older than me, books became my friends and siblings. My earliest memories were of my mother reading me Little House in the Big Woods long before it was a television show. Laura and Mary were very real to me. From there, I became friends with Lucinda in the book Roller Skates, Sam in Trumpet of the Swan, and Adam in I Am the Cheese.
But somehow my love of reading did not transfer into a love of reading in my classroom. It took me a long time to understand I needed have conversations with my students about books and share my thoughts. This revelation occurred after I attended the 2012 Boothbay Literacy Retreat. All these wonderful authors, including Donalyn Miller, started talking books. I found a community that gave my teaching a rebirth.
That fall, I came back, shared myself with my kids and took my solitary love of reading into the light. We read Wonder and The One and Only Ivan before the hype. We loved these books and we lived these books for many months. The next year, we ate our way through Esperanza Rising and played sleuth with Capture the Flag. This year, we held our breath to find the fate of Jaron in The Shadow Throne and June in the Legend series and rediscovered Turtle Wexler in The Westing Game.
My teaching changed, my kids changed and as a reader, I have forever changed. Giving my students the choice made all the difference in the world. The books I have read based on their recommendations, far outweigh my Goodreads list. Through the last two years, my class library has grown, my life as an educator has been enriched and I know I have given my students something I never found in school…choice and a voice. Reading doesn’t happen on the confines of the four cornered page, it happens in the dialogue after reading the words (to paraphrase Kylene Beers). For me, being defined as a reader is a legacy I hope to pass on my students. Now the magic that happens on the pages of a book can and does happen in my classroom.
Beth Robertson is a sixth grade teacher on the Zoo Crew in Tecumseh, Michigan. She is an avid reader and a reluctant writer who hopes to start a blog soon. You can follow her on Twitter @Readerrobertson.