Monday, December 22, 2014

'Tis the Season to "Pay It Forward" with a Book

Just before I left for the NCTE Annual Convention, I shared with seniors my excitement about getting to meet many fabulous authors whose books I admire and whose generosity touches me.

Among those authors I mentioned, one student expressed excitement about David Levithan. Elizabeth, my student, asked me to take her copy of Two Boys Kissing and get it signed. I said, "No. I'm not taking books with me. I'm bringing new books home."

At the ALAN breakfast, I met David Levithan and told him about my student's request, and he generously offered to sign the book. Alas, I did not have it, so I did the next best thing: I took a selfie with David.

Fast forward to the exhibit hall later that afternoon.

As I stood in line awaiting a signature from Chris Crutcher, I chatted with a teacher from Louisville, Kentucky. I told her about my student's request. Much to my delight and surprise, she retrieved a signed copy of Two Boys Kissing from her bag and handed it to me to give to my student. How exciting!

Back at school the following Monday:

When my class entered the room, I had the selfie with David Levithan on the screen and the signed copy of Two Boys Kissing in my hand. I book talked the book and told the class about meeting the author and sharing Elizabeth's request with him.

For dramatic effect, I elaborated a bit about standing in line with the teacher from Louisville. Then I opened the book and revealed David Levithan's signature. "Elizabeth," I said, "this is for you." The class broke out in applause as we celebrated the gift of reading and of sharing books.

I captured the moment in a selfie, of course, so that Elizabeth, too, could sort of have her picture w/ David Levithan.


A couple of months ago my colleague Kyle Jenkins asked to borrow my copy of Stanley Fish's How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, Too.  While at NCTE I acquired a free copy of the book for Kyle.


In her lovely homage to reading, How Reading Changed My Life, Anna Quindlen writes, "Reading has always been my home, my sustenance, my great invincible companion. 'Book love,' Trollope called it. 'It will make your hours pleasant to you as long as you live.' Yet of all the many things in which we recognize some universal comfort...reading seems to be the one in which the comfort is most undersung..."

So instead of browsing the book aisle for a gift of words, too often we look to trends and choose shiny baubles that soon break and tarnish, whose new lasts a moment, whose luster fades until the next trend takes its place. 

This season we can wrap ourselves in worlds real and imagined and "read forward" by giving books. 

Happy Holidays and Happy Reading! May all your reading dreams come true and may you be blessed with the bounty of books in 2015. 

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