Author: Penny Kittle
It’s very rare today for a book to come along where I find myself slowing down to devour every single word on the page – especially in the realm of non-fiction.
My usual pace with these books is to read the first few chapters in depth to see where it’s going, then pick up the pace while glossing over swaths of text that seem redundant. It doesn’t help that many non-fiction books feel like those chunks of text were added to meet a word count.
This book blew me away.
Kittle is a passionate teacher who has a deep love of reading and writing, which is obvious from the start. It’s a passion she passes along to her students, teaching them to enjoy reading for the love of reading and nothing else. All I could think is her students are fortunate to have her.
This book is her thoughts and methodology at building a classroom library and finding ways to engage students with the right book. I loved not only her honesty, but the honesty of her students who give the real details teachers often don’t want to hear.
We are given many stories throughout of her successes and challenges in building a culture where reading is prized and students go home and devour books that interest them. As a teacher, I’ve always struggled with literary analysis because it was a turnoff for me as a student.
Does it have its place?
Of course. It’s the reason I discovered Mordecai Richler and combed through the nuances of Hamlet. I also took courses in genre fiction in University just to break up the monotony of thick, Theology textbooks for my major. However, I understand that I’m an odd duck who devours books like it’s a necessary part of living (an INFJ trait, I’m told).
Kittle shows us how many students don’t have the interest, skill, or stamina (sometimes all three), to be active readers. Literary analysis falls on deaf ears because students simply don’t read the assigned books. They either use SparkNotes, online essays, or wait for a class discussion to start and comment on the themes mentioned to make it look like they’ve read.
We can’t blame them for doing this.
What we can do, is find books to match their interest and let them be swept away for nothing but the love of reading. Then challenge them to take it up a notch until they’re reading the classics we so desperately want them to enjoy.
Kittle makes you believe it’s possible because she’s done it for years.
Even if I were to take no suggestions for my own classroom… which is not the case because I’ve already started building my library for the new year… you will walk away from this book with an appreciation for books themselves.
It will probably take me a few years to get it going, but at the very least, I will now slow down and enjoy each word I come across on a page.