Education Opinion

I Resolve to Read

By Donalyn Miller — January 01, 2012 3 min read
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( This post has been cross-posted to the Nerdy Book Club blog , which is marvelous place to find fellow readers and celebrate books.)

I am known as an avid reader and a teacher who expects my students to read a lot. I read 620 books in 2011. (Yes, this number includes a lot of children’s books, but that is important for my students and me.) I have friends who read more than me, and friends who read less. I don’t have any non-reading friends, which speaks volumes about me, I suppose.

How many books my students and I rack up in a year isn’t important to me, though. When I think about the books I read in 2011, what matters are the faces I remember. From Everybody Sees the Ants, I see Lucky Linderman with a raw scrape down one cheek. I see Louis Zamperini’s hollowed, starved eyes in Unbroken. Revisiting Hound Dog True, I see Mattie Breen peeking out of a janitor’s closet. I see Miss New Mexico with an airline tray wedged in her forehead in Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens.

I see faces outside of the books, too. I see Ethan, standing at my desk, impatiently waiting for me to stamp our new copy of Amulet #4, so he can borrow it. I see my student teacher, Malorie, wearing a fake mustache and reading Mac Barnett’s Mustache! in honor of Mustache Day. I see dear friends, passing around Mary Lee Hahn’s copy of Dude: Fun with Dude and Betty at last summer’s All Write Conference, so we could all share it as our Book-a-Day title. I see friends at NCTE sporting pointy red hats from I Want My Hat Back. I see my oldest granddaughter, Emma, begging me to read A Dog Is a Dog for the seventh time in a row.

Looking back at my reading life in 2011, I don’t regret anything. The books I abandoned, my tower of unread books, the overflowing basket of bookstore receipts, my unloved Kindle, the library’s audio CD of Runemarks I lost. I could consider these artifacts of reading failure or at least room for improvement, but I don’t. I don’t apologize for my reading habits. I just live to read another day. My reading life doesn’t begin on January 1st and end on December 31st, anyway. My reading life begins anew each time I open another book.

I can look for that CD tomorrow.

I have no idea how my reading life will evolve in the next twelve months. It’s a mystery. I do know that I will be a different person at the end of 2012 than I am now, and the books I read will play a role in that change.

Here is what I know with certainty about my reading life in 2012. A book will break my heart and rebuild it. I will find the perfect book for a particular child at the right time. I will read about bravery and chickens (perhaps in the same book). I will discover things about myself I didn’t know.

I imagine that some days I won’t read anything at all. If that happens for too many days in a row, I will get cranky. My husband will look up from his iPad and tell me to go read something (he plans to reread the first 40 years of X-Men comics).

This week, several bloggers have announced their personal reading goals and invited other readers to join them. (Click on the bloggers’ names for details about each challenge.) Colby Sharp and John Schumacher will attempt to read every Newbery Medal winner in their Nerdbery challenge. The Nerdcott challenge led by K-8 Library Media Specialist, Laura Given, will read every Caldecott Medal winner and honor book. Middle school librarian, Kathy Burnette, at The Brain Lair blog created a Printz of the Past challenge (nicknamed Nerdprintz, of course) setting the goal to read every Printz Award winner and honor book. Kathy has announced several reading challenges that sound intriguing this week, so check other posts on her blog.

I plan to participate in all three Nerd challenges, but I forgive myself in advance for bailing on Shen of the Sea (1926 Newbery winner).

Please share your reading goals for yourself and the children in your lives. You might inspire us to join you or create a reading challenge of our own.

On Tuesday, when my students return to school, we will reflect on our reading lives over the past year and plan ahead. Whether my students decide to read more books, or finish that series they never did, or spend a little more time reading every night, or reread The Hunger Games before the movie comes out in March, they will all commit in some way to continuing their reading lives in 2012. How and what and when we read doesn’t matter as much as our willingness to keep reading. That’s the only reading resolution we need.

For my part, I resolve to lead my students to books and show them how to find their way back without me.

I hope you have a wonderful reading year in 2012.

The opinions expressed in The Book Whisperer are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.