Is there a book on your shelf that you can't help going back to time and time again? That one book that even though your to-be-read pile is a mile high, you get it out and cozy up with it for a few days?
For me, it's usually Little Women or Harry Potter. It's generally this time of year that makes me want to go back to something familiar. Too often we read a book, put it back on the shelf and it either stays there for a long time, or gets put in the box for the next donation. Obviously, I don't re-read every book I've read, but honestly I'd like to do it more often. I watch my favorite movies time and time again, why not read my favorite books?
Students in my class often drift back to their favorite books. I know that feeling of wanting to encourage them to read other things and move past the books they've nearly memorized. I think it's okay to keep suggesting things they might also like, but I think it's important to fall into a familiar book as many times as necessary.
I've not done the research, but it seems to me that when students re-read their favorite books, they can build a sense of story structure, character development, and find meaning in the book they didn't catch the first time around. Most importantly, if a student is reading their favorite book, then they're reading! I would never want to force a book on a kid only to have them lose interest. Eventually they WILL read other things. They WILL move on. But how nice that they will always have that old favorite to find again when they need it.
"What's that? Put the book down? I thought this was a blog about reading!"
It is! You should still put the book down if you're not feeling it. You're the boss of what you read and kids should be, too.
I recently had to put a book down that I just wasn't getting into. Sometimes that's hard for me, but I'm here to tell you that it's okay. No, I'm not going to tell you what book it was. Number one: it's not fair to the author who spent so much time and effort writing that book. Number two: just because I didn't like it doesn't mean that it's not going to be somebody else's favorite book. I mean my sister didn't like Harry Potter when it first came out and I was all like, "WHAT?!?" I eventually wore her down and now she's full-on Hufflepuff, but my point is that not every book is going to be right for every person. There are too many great books out there to not put one aside and start something that you're going to enjoy way better.
I know there are a lot of people who HAVE to finish the books they start and that's cool too. You do you. However, it's okay to put a book down rather than sludge through it so you can start something new. What if kids don't know it's okay to let a book go and then they become wary of ever picking up another?
I think this is an important lesson for the kids we teach. Think back to a time when you were forced to read something you hated. For me it happened in high school. Some people may love The Heart of Darkness (yes, I name dropped the book...sorry Joseph Conrad) but I really didn't like it. It was tough getting through that one and then analyzing it for symbolism. I would have been happier searching for symbolism in a book that I actually enjoyed. The same reading skills apply to more than just one book.
How are we presenting books to our students? Do they get a say in the matter? They should! They should be able to make book choices based on their interests and own reading goals. And if they want to put a book down? Let them do it. There are libraries FULL of more.
Teacher, reader, tea drinker, and dog mom.