Have you seen this infographic on GoodReads recently?
My co-teacher sent it to me for a little laugh. We allow our students to abandon books. We know that every book is not right for every person. Our goal is to pair each student with their just-right book. Of course, we have those few students who abandon every single book they pick up. We call them "Book Abandoners." It's a term we use every day in our classroom, and the students know that we do not want them to become habitual book abandoners. This infographic was kind of a laugh for us, because we had a parent a few years ago that did not like that we told her son he was a book abandoner. Regardless of the fact that the child did not finish a book his entire fourth grade year. We wanted him to finish a book. We begged and pleaded with him. We allowed him to pick his own books. We gave him books we thought he would enjoy. He never finished one. That will haunt me for a long time.
I recently finished The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. A non-teaching friend recommended it to me, which was huge because this friend rarely reads kid-lit or YA. She told me how much she loved it and how she had to slow her reading down because she just didn't want it to end. Great review, right? This same friend also recommended The Storyteller by Jodi Piccoult. I also read that book this summer and she did not steer me wrong. (Side note: What's with the Nazi books this summer? I also reread Number the Stars). The Book Thief had been on my GoodReads list since I started marking books to-read on the site. On this friend's recommendation, I decided to read it this summer. What the heck, right? I read two other Holocaust-era books, what's one more?
I struggled through it. No, I STRUGGLED through it. I don't know why. Maybe it was one too many Nazi/Holocaust books in such a short time period. It could be the fact that Death was the narrator in this book, obviously something very new to me. My go-to reading superstars on GoodReads & Twitter, Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp both rated the book very highly. I kept wondering, "What is wrong with me? Why don't I like this book like the rest of the world does?" I still don't have an answer to that question. I will continue to ponder.
I thought about abandoning the book a few times. I allow my students to be book abandoners, why can't I? Then I kept telling myself, "Everyone else loved this book, there's got to be something I'm missing." I kept reading. In my eyes, the last 100 pages or so redeemed the entire book. It was so well-written and I felt so many emotions reading the end of the book. (No, the emotion was not happiness that it was almost over!). That got me thinking, should I allow book abandoning? Should I encourage my students to stick with it, because they might get something out of it in the end? I won't say I loved this book, by any means, but my entire perspective on the book changed now that I reached the end. Maybe this book wasn't just right for me at this time. I'm now curious, should I encourage students when they abandon books to go back and try it again at another point in the year?
One of the great things about being a teacher who reads is that I can reflect on my reading life and use it as a teaching tool in the classroom. I will definitely be sharing my struggle with this book with my students. First, they will learn that readers do sometimes feel conflicted with a book they are reading, dislike a book even. They will also learn that persevering through a book, rather than abandoning it, does have it's rewards. I felt accomplished finishing this book, as well as seeing the book in a whole new light once I had time to reflect. I learn, or take away something from every book I read. This time my lessons will carry on with my students.