Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Talk to me. I will recommend you something.

One of the great joys of my job is introducing kids to new stories. The major assignment for my juniors this semester was to read a novel of their choosing by an American author and write an essay then do a presentation about a book by that author.

One of my kids really really wanted I Am Legend but another kid got to it first. He was all pouty about it, so I had to quickly come up with another book he would love even more. I thought and decided to recommend Ender's Game.

At first he was all "I don't like sci-fi. This book looks stupid." Then he read the first chapter. He was still kind of grumpy. Then a day later he started telling me how much he enjoyed reading about Ender beating the crap out of his bully. We talked about how Ender's experience has some similarities to the way Einstein's theory of relativity led to the atomic bomb and he jumped on that. He was fascinated by the idea of that, as if he'd never realized books could be compared to real life issues.

But when he was done with Ender's Game he read I Am Legend for fun. Then he got so used to reading every day that he went back to the library and checked out something else. He's a total book worm now, always asking me if I've read whatever book he's into now. The other day he got all mad because there is not yet a sequel to the last book he enjoyed.

Every now and then I'll talk about a book or a movie and kids will ask me to write the title down. I look around and there are kids copying it so they can go get it somewhere. These kids NEVER take notes, so I'm just glad they heard something I said and cared enough to copy it. That's how I introduced these kids to films with subtitles.

I consider that whole recommendation thing a key part of my job. It's up to me to convince some of these kids they like to read when they think they don't. "You need a book, eh? Well let's see. What do you like?" Then I have to figure out how to give them a book they love so much they'll want to try reading something else when they're done.

It's pretty cool.


  1. I think it's so important to try to assign good books for kids to read. My summer reading lists for school used to drive me CRAZY. Really?? Assigning JOHNNY TREMAIN is supposed to get me excited about reading?!

  2. Too lazy to see Korean films6:48 AM

    Assign them my scripts to read. Give them an A if they can provide me with helpful feedback.

  3. You're making an absolute difference in their lives.

    That must feel fucking awesome on most days.

  4. As a kid growing up books saved me. They were my way of escaping. I devoured books. I would find an author I liked and read everything. Then someone would say; "If you like so and so you will like this guy". And off I would go to read all of his stuff.

    For me it was Roald Dahl early on and Stephen King in my high school days. Don't ask me how I made that jump.

    Good for you Emily. Get those kids reading. It is something my wife and I work really hard on with our Son.

    So many awesome adventures waiting on the shelf.


  5. My 6th grade teacher Bob Olson turned his whole class into readers just by letting them read "adult books" (not porn) and talking about his favorite books. Over the summer I talked to some guys who were in that class with me, and they still read. These were jocks and toughs and other types you would not expect to be "readers", but it just became part of their lives. So - great work!

  6. Anonymous9:03 AM

    Hi this is the only book you should read: my wife gave me it,

    "There was some news recently that James Cameron might be producing or even potentially directing a film about Hiroshima. He’d optioned a book called The Last Train From Hiroshima, by Charles Pellegrino, a friend of the director.

    Now publication of the book is being halted, because publisher Henry Holt and Company “was not able to answer” questions about the veracity of some of Pellegrino’s facts. Some of the people mentioned in the purportedly factual book may not exist. Oops! Probably won’t see a movie from Cameron any time soon."

    Mick Lo

  7. Thanks for sharing that, Bill. We don't usually get to see if anything we do reaches beyond the senior year, so I like hearing about long term impacts of teaching.

  8. That's awesome, Emily. I was already a reader when I was in high school. But teachers always have a chance to have an huge impact on their students. I still think about a teacher of mine who introduced me to Grahame Greene in high school. No book has impacted me quite like The Power and The Glory did at that time. And that was when I started writing. Because of Mr. Scott, and because of Greene's The Power and The Glory.

    Forget a teachable moment. That sounds like a teacher's high. :)

  9. Have you thought about recommending Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS? (I am NOT talking about the movie, which had NO relationship to the book.) It is a superb commentary on social responsibility, disguised as sci-fi (as is most true science fiction is). Running an incredibly close second would be David Brin's THE POSTMAN (again, NOT the movie, although the movie did a decent job externalizing a book that is almost exclusively about inner turmoil). Good storytelling on top of it! Hard to beat... FWIW


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