Read in 48 Hours or Less by Rebecca Marsick
“I am a child of books. I come from a world of stories.”
And so begins Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston’s picture book, A Child of Books, the story of a young girl’s journey through classic children’s books and the power of imagination that reading fosters.
I wanted to dive into these pages and join this young child as she used her imagination to sail upon a sea of words. And I thought about how books have always been an escape for me, a way to tune out the “real world” and disappear into someone else’s story, often times even another world, for an hour or a day. Regardless of the time span, when I wake from my book intoxication, I am always refreshed.
In fact, I wholeheartedly agree with the masterful storyteller Phillip Pullman when he stated, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
And herein lies the sadness I feel every time I hear one of my high school students say, “But I don’t have time to read.” OR “I am too stressed with my homework to find time to read too!” Because, what these students just don’t yet understand is that reading is the ultimate relaxation. It is the best way to de-stress because you find yourself in a world that isn’t your own. Reading allows you to put aside your own problems, headaches, stressors, homework, etc. and just enjoy the life of someone different from yourself.
In 2009, an article in “The Telegraph,” cited a study conducted by the researcher Dr. David Lewis at the University of Sussex who found that, “It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination.” He even stated that reading was a better stress relief than a walk or a cup of tea.
Given the reliance that many adolescents and adults have on technology, reading is also a way to reboot our imaginations. According to a 2014 “Psychology Today” article, “Reading a good novel allows your imagination to take flight. Novels allow you to forget about your day-to-day troubles and to transport yourself to a fantasy world that becomes a reality in your mind’s eye.”
I have noticed that over the past few months, as the news around the world seems to grow dimmer by the minute, I have taken to disappearing into the world of great fiction more and more. Leaning toward YA, I have read many different subgenres of fiction, all of which I have promptly recommended to students as must-reads that they will not be able to put down. Through book talks that involve descriptions of the narrator as well as a few carefully chosen pages of text, my high school students have eagerly added these books to their “What to read next” list or even taken them that day.
Each of the following books has allowed me an escape hatch into a new perspective on life, and a story that I devoured in 48 hours or less, all the while sparking my imagination and refueling my soul.
We Were Liars (Lockhart) gives readers a peek behind the perfect-looking curtain of American wealth and a dark story that unfolds surrounding the protagonist’s complicated and painful familial life that those outside of her family never see. When I saw a 16-year-old boy so engrossed in this female narrated story that he did not look up when independent reading time was over, I knew that my love for this mystery was not a fluke.
As a reader, Words in Deep Blue (Crowley) (coming out in June 2017; I was fortunate to get an Advanced Reader’s Copy!) allowed me to journey to a used bookstore in Australia where readers leave love letters in the pages of their favorite books and notes in the margins of passages that have impacted them. Fangirl (Rowell) and Dumplin’ (Murphy) were just sheer fun, teen angst love stories involving an introverted writer of fan fiction and a girl trying to establish her own identity free of her pageant-obsessed mother, respectively.
Burn Baby Burn (Medina) was just released this year, but brings the reader back in time to the 1970s and the fear that spread through Queens in the Summer of Sam. Told from the perspective of a Cuban American girl enveloped in second wave feminism, fear, family drama, and friendship, her story is familiar, yet offers a perspective of a time and an immigrant circumstance that was refreshing.
Moving from the late ‘70s to the early ‘80s, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Alire Sáenz) blends the lives and voices of two Mexican American adolescent boys, grappling with their sexuality as well as their families, who luckily find one another. As much as I fell in love with both boys, I think one of my students summed it up best when he came to my classroom door after reading it in one night. “Mrs. Marsick,” he said, “I just can’t.” He then told me he could not return it because he needed more time with the characters.
While I may love that all of these books allowed me to forget the world I am living in and inhabit one from decades ago, or across the country, or in the mind of someone I have never been, I hope even more so that this is the experience that my students have when reading these, or any, book of choice.
By sharing my own passion for reading with my students, especially when it encompasses devouring a book from a Friday night when I left them to a Monday morning when I see them again, I know that one day, if not already, they will all find the book that sparks their imagination and allows them to see that reading is the highest form of relaxation and joy.
Rebecca Marsick is a secondary literacy coach at Staples High School in Westport, CT. She believes that we need to help all students, at least, discover a “like” of reading, if not a love of it; therefore, she spends much of her time reading, talking about reading, and sharing what she is reading with everyone around her. You can follow her on Twitter @RebeccaMarsick or see what she is reading on Instagram @marsickreads.