Friday, November 6, 2015

Why I Spent $42.50 Buying Books I Don't Want to Read*

This is a teacher-y post.  Because I'm a reading teacher.  So sometimes my thoughts about reading are actually thoughts about teaching reading.  

I just bought a bunch of crap at the library book sale.
The guy on the right is me, but I'm not a guy.

Like, seriously mediocre reading material.  I was embarrassed to go through the check out process.

The thing is, I was buying for my classroom library, and after two months, I have pretty well figured out what my students will read, and it's usually not the books I love.  So I bought a bowhunting magazine (50 cents), a coffee table book about ancient Greece ($2.50), and a handful of paranormal romances.  Oh, and American Sniper, God help me, which one book refuser has been SWEARING up and down he will read if I get.  Time for him to put his money where his mouth is.  (The hardback, oddly, was a buck less than the paperback.)

Not my usual reading material.
Did I mention weapons scare me?

I also found a few graphic novels, which are the ones that pained me least to buy.  Anya's Ghost was one of my favorite reads last month, after all, so I grabbed the $3.50 copy, knowing that graphic novels tend to be pricey when you buy retail.

And I found the Rolling Stone with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover.  Someone will want to read it.

I picked up and put down a few others.  A Sonnerblick I haven't read yet.  Circus Mirandus.  Some great looking memoirs.  Each time I told myself, "If you really want to read this, you can check out one of the copies they still have on their shelves.  You're here to buy for your students."  It was hard, but it was also satisfying to know what my focus was.  I spent hundreds of dollars last summer, buying blind for kids I'd never met.

How do I feel about buying drivel and movie tie-ins (redundant much?) for my students?  I'd like to say that I feel great, because READING IS READING, dammit, and if you're an 8th grader who reads at a 3rd grade level, finding a book you enjoy is far more important than meeting some English teacher's standard of quality literature.  But I actually feel kind of sad, because I want so much more for them.

Still, it will be okay.  The fact that the kids have figured out, "I really like nonfiction about ancient cultures," or "I like romances with werewolves that are kind of scary but have a happy ending," or "I like reading about kids dealing with gang issues," (actual preferences described by actual students this week) is huge.  The fact that I have worked out a blend of conferencing, journaling, and simply talking with kids in order to find out what they are hoping to find as they stare blankly at the library bookshelves, is huge.

Some will branch out.  They will show each other new titles, new authors, and new genres.  I'd like to see the kid who likes the books about troubled Latino teens to try Trash or House of the Scorpion by the end of the year.  I handed my paranormal romance fan three books the other day, and the one she settled on is Shiver; maybe Stiefvater will get her hooked.  After reading Smile and Sisters six times each, some will be brave enough to tackle Drama and Sunny Side Up, or even transition into Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging or Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie.

Love this book.  And the sequel.
I didn't even LIKE this book, but it's the kind of
book I'm comfortable around.
Mystery.  Sci Fi.  #WNDB.
Another sci fi with a Latino main character.  *Happy sigh.*

Books are gateway drugs to other books.

And honestly, I'd rather produce students who go on to read trashy novels with great enthusiasm all their lives than ones who say, "Yeah, I read a really good book in 8th grade, and haven't read a book since."

*Subtitle: When what I really need are a pair of shoes that don't hurt my feet and a pair of jeans that aren't worn out.


  1. I think that is awesome that you read books you don't like just because your students will. You are a great teacher! When I was in high school, I read a lot of VC Andrews and a LOT of trashy romance novels, but my taste has evolved so much. My favorite books are The Handmaid's Tale and Jane Eyre, but I am sad to say that I didn't even touch those books when I was younger. I didn't read those books until I was an adult. Like you said, books are a gateway drug to other books. And yes, reading is reading! Your students are very lucky.

  2. I think you're on the right track - and what you say about students who go on to read trashy novels rather than nothing is so true. There are so many people who don't read at all because they hated being forced to read things they thought were boring in school. Hopefully you can graduate them to those better books - slowly but surely!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  3. I love the fact that Shiver is included in this! I fell head over heels in love with this series, and that's a really big deal for me because usually the only books I fall in love with are Jodi Picoult's.

  4. You sound like a great teacher, I wish I could claim my teachers did things like that for us at school, helping encourage us to read by buying books for the classroom that appeal to varying tastes. And I really love that you acknowledge you aren't going to create a bunch of intense literary readers who are always reading the award-winning books before anyone has heard of them, instead you just want to encourage readers, no matter what they're reading tastes. There will be plenty that just want to read fun trashy novels (raises my hand, that's totally me about half the year wanting to read trashy romance because I love it) and others who just love reading non-fiction books about the world and it's good that you're encouraging them. Too often people aren't encouraged to read for the fun of it so they do just stop once they leave school.

    1. I love that last sentence! I think I'm going to post it by my desk to keep my spirits up when I feel like I'm doing things "wrong."


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