The Power of Reading

*Note* The below blog post is a guest blog from our Twitter friend Jennifer (@KidsLearnFromMe). This content does not necessarily reflect the views of Better World Books (as our lawyers make sure we say). We love having guest bloggers and invite you to email 11@betterworldbooks.com if you are interested in covering a book or topic on the BWB Blog. Thank you, Jennifer!

Books have always held sway over my life.  To be frank, I tend to neglect other tasks in my life (house cleaning, cooking, grading papers) when I have a book calling my name.  I would rather spend money on books than jewelry.  My monthly book budget is usually larger than my monthly clothes budget (and I love clothes).  Books are my Muse and my Siren.

Before I go any further, I should introduce myself.  My name is Jennifer Williams.  I currently reside in Oklahoma.  I teach 8th, 9th, 10th grade pre-AP English and 12th grade AP English for a small, rural school.  In fact, I started the pre-AP program at the school.  The enrollment has exploded since I began the program two years ago.  Yes, I’m so proud!  During my career, I have taught 8th-12th grades; I have taught at-risk students, traditional students, advanced students, and special needs students.  I have been married for fifteen years to my high school sweetheart and have an amazing thirteen-year-old daughter.

Avatar of me that a student drew

Now that you know me a little better, let us return to my obsession.  I began reading when I was four and have been passionate in the thirty-one years since (go ahead, do the math: I’m thirty-five).  I do not remember the first book I read, but I vividly remember many since.  I have always been an introspective person, rather a loner.  I have always been fascinated with people and their idiosyncrasies (or idiocies).  I come from a family with many anger issues.

Books helped me escape, travel, learn about myself, and learn about others.  Books were always my best friends–the ones who never failed me.  I will never forget scaring myself silly in the second grade with scary stories.  I’ll never forget crying when “Old Dan” and “Little Anne” died in Where the Red Fern Grows.  I learned survival skills and about pioneering life with Laura Ingalls Wilder (who can forget when Ma hit the bear or when Pa had to eat the Christmas candy to survive the blizzard?).  I loved the cadence and magic of Dr. Seuss’ words.  I loved Jim Kjelgaard‘s books, where he told the story partly from an animal’s perspective.  I fell in love with Edgar Allen Poe (truly, I was in love) in middle school.  He improved my vocabulary and scared the you-know-what out of me.  I also fell in love with William Shakespeare (I wonder if he and Poe were jealous of each other?), and worked my way through his comedies–I saved the tragedies for high school.

In my advanced English class in 9th grade, we were given a list of classics: these were the only books we could read for book reports over the next four years.  The Hound of the Baskervilles thrilled me that year.  Sherlock Holmes is amazing…and so superior!  However, that December, I chose to read Margartet Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.  I devoured that book in about a week.  I loved Scarlett, but I wanted to smack her.  And Rhett Butler…sigh…I still swoon over him.

My students reading “Twelve Angry Men”

 

As I grew older, I kept the list and continue to work through it.  I have also added young adult novels and newer children’s books to my repertoire so I can recommend them to my students.  Over the years, my passion has changed many reluctant readers into excited readers.  No, they don’t have my obsession, but it thrills me when a student who claimed to “hate” books admits reading can actually be fun!  In my classes, we’ve discovered the joys and pains of Jonas in The Giver; we laughed at the hormonal melodrama of Romeo and Juliet; we discussed how Brutus truly was a hero in Julius Caesar; we enjoyed Chaucer’s satire and Beowulf’s unabashed braggadocio.  We cried over Boy in the Striped Pajamas and were irate when Bob Ewell attacked Scout and Jem.  We’ve discussed history’s impact on literature and literature’s impact on history.  We’ve become more aware and, hopefully, more tolerant of others.  Books have transformed our lives.

 

As an English teacher, I don’t just read a book: we always discuss the themes and the life applications.  I am so blessed to work with books and to share my passion with future generations.  Even in this technological age, books have a place.  Books, if read deeply, have the power to truly change our society.

11 Comments

  1. I, too, am addicted to books. I remember crying when my teacher read Where the Red Fern Grows to our class in fifth grade. Reading was one of my greatest passions as a child, and it still is, thanks to many wonderful teachers.

  2. thanks for your great information

  3. Hey, I learned from this woman. I was in her 12th grade AP English class this past year. Great post, Mrs. Williams!

  4. Great Post! Your story is a lot like mine. One of my early favorites was Little Women. I didn’t just want to be like Jo–in my mind I WAS Jo!! She was a role model, a writer, strong, independent. I read under the covers at night with a flashlight. Now, I teach college English. One of the best moments is when someone says to me, “I haven’t read a book for pleasure in 10 years, but I loved this book.” That’s enough.

  5. Matthew T. H. says:

    This woman is the best teacher. I wish every teacher knew and taught their subject as well as her. I too was in her 12th grade AP English class. Love the post!
    (…poe…)

  6. Mrs. Williams,

    I remember reading “The Yellow Wallpaper” with you in 11th grade. I loved that piece so much that a year later I had my boyfriend – a college freshman at the time – read it silently with me in his dorm room just because I saw it on the syllabus of a required literature course he was taking. We briefly discussed it after reading it, which was neat because his mind is anything but literary.

    I appreciate you and many other former English teachers to this day. There are pieces of memories from various years in my English classes that I will never be able to shake, thankfully.

    What a sob story, right? :)

  7. Sherie Luffman says:

    Books are my joy and my best friends. I began reading at age 3 and at age 4 I read Black Beauty. I still love that book and read it often. I love the feel and smell of books and I love being surrounded by (literally) thousands of my best friends. My home has books in every room and just their presence makes me happy.

    Over the years I have learned so much from books. They’ve increased my vocabulary, taught me that there are both mean and good people in the world, helped me escape to other countries and other worlds and, most of all, helped me to learn who I am.

    My greatest sadness is that neither of my kids enjoy reading very much, even though I started reading to them when they were babies and read to them throughout their childhood. My grandson does enjoy reading (when he’s not playing computer games) and I hope his love of reading will grow as he does.

  8. Thank you all! And, thanks, Ariel!

  9. I remember being able to read before I started school…I read the newspaper aloud to my grandmother aged 4. I still love to read…and my 8 year also has a passion for books. She reads well beyond her age, and as she grows, it’s becoming a delight to share our love of books together. I enjoy revisiting the books of my childhood with her. She also sneaks the light on after bedtime and can be found sneakily reading late into the night.
    I always tell my children that reading is a great gift! If you can read you can learn ANYTHING!

  10. I was a Laura Ingalls Wilder addict. Basically my entire knowledge of American history and culture is based on those books! (I’m Australian…) I was always trying to do the things they did, like twist straw into sticks, grind wheat for bread, make snow pancakes and snow candy. One day I even beat up cream into butter and coloured it with carrot juice, just like Ma. I also tried to dig my own dugout in the yard. I have read the series to my children, and they love it too. As a parent I begin to appreciate how desperate the pioneers must have felt during the long winter. I could go on and on!

    Of course, I also read other books, incessantly, obsessively, and in priority over most other aspects of daily life. Funnily enough, I too am a 35 yr old highschool English teacher! Getting paid to pass on a passion about the wonders of (good) reading and writing is brilliant.

  11. Dhruv Saxena says:

    I like to read books.Books take us in another world far away from real world.They are my best friends.They are a store of knowledge.They dont expect anything from us.I like authors such as Roald Dahl,Enid Blyton and Ruskin Bond.I enjoy their style of writing stories and illustration.Ebooks cannot replace hard bound books.I truly appreciate the importance of books in my life.

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