My first NCTE conference was a blast! Seeing the experts who have so impacted my teaching practices was the equivalent of a four day rock festival. I felt like such a groupie! After running into Janet Allen, my idol, at three separate events, I am pretty sure she thinks I am a stalker. One of the vendor booths was passing out “I Love Janet” buttons. I snagged three!
Not only were the literacy gurus there, droves of book authors attended. I stood in line to get Neal Schusterman’s autograph and told him (and anyone else standing by) how much my students have loved The Schwa Was Here. Bruce Coville chatted with me about the mythical Butterfly Road Bill from The Prince of Butterflies. Laurie Halse Anderson is just as hip and intelligent as her characters. I went from line to line for over two hours, collecting autographs, chatting with authors, and gathering an avalanche of books.
How I wished my students could have been there with me! I missed them, then. Each would have been thrilled to talk with the creators of their beloved stories. I cannot wait to share the inside scoops I heard about upcoming sequels and new titles, show off the autographs made out to them, and pass out the new books I harvested for our library.
I was reminded of the time last spring when Rick Riordan, author of The Lightning Thief, came to our school. My students were wild about the book and rushed to get to the library for Rick’s visit. I had to stop many students from running down the hall! Arriving early (trust me we were never early anywhere else!), we earned the front row seats. The kids were overjoyed to talk to Rick and stood in line afterwards to meet him and talk about his characters.
My students and I share this bond--this love for authors and their books. We are crazy book fans together. I know that I could never lead my students to fall in love with reading if I hadn’t fallen long ago. As Wordsworth tells us:
What we have loved
Others will love
And we will teach them how.
Reading teachers should be readers first. Students need more than classroom modeling to become readers, they need life modeling. Some may not get it from home, but they should always get it from us- their reading teachers. For me, a teacher who reads, sharing books with my students is the greatest joy there is.
Thank you authors- all of you- those who have shared the wisdom of your practices and those who show my students and me the magic of words. I could not teach reading without you.
I wound up with more books than I could carry home. Fortunately, you can buy a cheap suitcase in Times Square!