This Book is the Property of: NOT ME
When I think of the word LEND, the first thing that comes to mind is lend a helping hand, but the second thing that comes to mind is can you LEND me that book when you finish?
I am a big reader. I love bookstores. I love libraries where LENDING makes it possible for everyone to have free access to knowledge and culture.
Well, Dr. Finch had me at subversive and radical!
However, I find it ironic that my first experience with reading involved stealing instead of lending.
On the last day of kindergarten, I "borrowed" a book from the class library. It was the official first grade reader filled with all sorts of exciting stories that involved seeing Spot run. I learned how to read that book over the summer, and couldn't wait to show Mrs. Valentine, first grade teacher extraordinaire, my newly acquired skills.
We sat down side-by-side and I read. I read those words with pride and glory, knowing that I was unlocking the key to a whole new world of reading.
Mrs. Valentine said, "Lorrie, that was wonderful. You are a reader now. But, Lorrie, is this your book?"
"Oh, yes, Mrs. Valentine. This is my book."
Mrs. Valentine opened the book to the inside cover. Before my eyes was a big stamped image that said This Book is the Property of Hacienda Elementary School. Well, those were very big words - way beyond my first grade skills.
"Lorrie, can you read any of these words?"
"No, Mrs. Valentine."
When I got home, my mom met me at the door. She made me march right back to school with that book and promise I would never steal anything again. So, my first experience with reading was also a mortifying morality lesson, but that didn't deter me.
Nothing could stop me from loving reading.
When I started teaching, I wanted my students to love reading just like me. I had lots of tricks up my sleeve, but one of my favorites was beginning the year with a literary timeline. Basically, students created an annotated list with one significant book from each year of their lives.
I gave examples to get them started. Of course, I led with my life of kindergarten reading crime (that got their attention fast!). Then, it was Nancy Drew for elementary school. For high school, it was Gone with the Wind which I read in three days on a road trip from California to the Canadian Rockies. My dad was so pissed that he'd driven thousands of miles and I never bothered to look out the window. Clearly, he didn't understand the power of Rhett Butler.
Then, in college, it was My Antonia (still my favorite book of all time). I love the prairie landscape and that strong pioneering woman who persevered no matter the challenge.
When I started teaching, it was Tuck Everlasting, a book that asks the following question: if you found a way to live forever, would you take it even if your loved ones would still die? One year, two parents died and two were diagnosed with cancer. I'll never forget the deep and real conversations I had with that room of ten year olds because we dared to open the pages of that precious book and talk with vulnerable hearts.
When my daughter was born, I had to spend a few extra days in the hospital. My husband asked me if I needed anything from home. I asked for two things - my tweezers (because who wants messy eyebrows and stray hairs?) and Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver. That book was my comfort teddy bear.
When our daughter was a toddler, we read Sandra Boynton's, The Going to Bed Book, every night when we tucked her in. Of course, it's memorized and eventually we didn't even need the book - we could recite it in our sleep (literally!).
So you get the picture. When students finished their timelines, we shared them. Students talked about their books like old friends. They connected with each other over shared book picks. And then the lending started. "Oh, I haven't read that. Can you lend it to me?"
It's such an easy ask, but it's one I think we need to do more often because it opens up conversations that connect people in deep and meaningful ways.
In Books for Living, Will Schwalbe says we should also ask each other, "What are you reading?" a lot more often. Here's why:
And so readers, I ask you. "What are you reading now?" Show me who you are and what you're becoming. Take a moment to share the books that have left an imprint on your life in the comments. Think of all the big eras -like elementary school, high school, college, single life, married life, parent life, grandparent life, writing life, teaching life, or any ole part of this glorious reading life.
Always writing (and reading!),
P.S. I'll just assume you might want to ask me what I'm reading right now. Today, I'm reading The Little Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan.
P.S.S. Even though my reading life started with a criminal act, please know that I've reformed - and I always return books to my friends who lend.