Finally Feeling Like a Reader… by Kimberly McDermid
I’ve been wanting to write this post for two years, I thought about doing it when my sister, an avid reader, valedictorian in high school, now a doctor, called me, the t.v. loving, phone talking, anything but reading sister and said “I need a new book to read, what can you recommend?” I knew then everything had changed for me as a reader!
Here’s my journey in finally feeling like a reader….
I’ve always loved books. As a child, I would be so excited when I got the book order form, I’d take it home and pick out books I’d want. I asked my teachers to let me help them sort the books when they arrived. I enjoyed the look and feel of a new book. So fresh and clean. My bookshelves were always full, but honestly I can’t say I really read any of them. Reading was hard for me as a kid, so instead of trying to find the just right book, I knew how to skim, read the back, and ask friends who actually did the reading. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to read them, but my attention, my love for watching tv or lack of excitement in the books teachers chose for me hindered my drive.
Then came college, I was admitted into the elementary education program and took a course in children’s literature. Wow! All that was out there, I cried for the first time reading a book, Walk Two Moons, I didn’t want Maniac Magee to ever end. I saw how much I hadn’t known about children’s literature and I was reading!
I began teaching in a New York City public school after college. Recommending the books I knew about, reading others by those authors. But after a while I realized it had been close to five years and the books I once loved to talk about had become old. And I wasn’t reading again. How was I going to find out about the newest books? There had to be great ones. I graveled with this question for quite a few years, how I longed to be in college and learning about the new books.
My reading life officially changed when I joined Twitter! I found a community of educators who tweeted about the latest and greatest books. I was amazed! When I first joined hashtags weren’t much of a thing, but slowly over several months I started seeing #nerdybookclub. And so I lurked about to see who was tweeting with that hashtag. I started to follow more and more people who had a love for books. When Donalyn Miller came up I remembered months before, I had been gifted her book The Book Whisperer, but it sat on my shelf. I immediately started reading it and I finished it in two days! Someone who had hardly finished a book in the last 10 years, I felt connected to it. Giving choice, exposing students to all literature had to offer, letting kids talk about books, it just made sense! Since it took so long to read that book, Reading in the Wild, her follow up book, had just come out. Bam! Finished in two days again. My reading life was taking shape. I started buying a ton children’s literature and professional development books people were tweeting about. (The Year of Billy Miller, Teach Like A Pirate, Wonder).
I couldn’t wait to get home each day and read!
As I started getting excited about reading, it didn’t take long for the enthusiasm to poured into the classroom. My students couldn’t wait to get their hands on the book I was reading. Our book conversations became much more meaningful. They were excited to share their reading with me and each other. Not only was my reading life taking shape, but my student’s were as well.
As I continued to read more and more, I found other teachers and friends who loved reading as much as me. One of my best friends is also my #bookbuddyforlife, she and I have the same passion for books. We talk and share books all the time! She came to Nerd Camp with me this summer and together we met Philip and Erin Stead, and were inspired by their writing and illustrating process. My reading community started on twitter, but has extended to friends, colleagues and most of all, my students!
This post is my journey, but what I really am taking away from my experience and will hopefully inspire yours; is the excitement and love for reading that spills to my students. Just by making their reading lives a priority and talking about it, letting them read every day, giving them choice, bringing new books into their hands, and letting them connect with authors, has made such an impact! Of course I still get the “I don’t know what to read”, but now, if a student says it, I will have myself and other kids swarm that student with recommendations!
Kimberly McDermid has been teaching reading for about 15 years in NYC, Chicago and Denver. Although she remembers her struggle to read the word “little” in Hop On Pop when she was younger, she now enjoys being a “book pusher” to her friends, students, and sometimes random people she meets in the children’s section of bookstores. She enjoys connecting on Twitter as a professional and learning from others. Feel free to connect with her via Twitter @goldenteach. She’d love to hear your inspiring stories and book recommendations.