Sunday, November 17, 2013

"Et tu, Brother?!"

OK, so...I'm tired of being stereotyped. It is ridiculous that some people think if you are intelligent and well-read, you must have "no life." While I will concede there may be some people who fit that stereotype, I don't happen to be one of them. I do not live vicariously through fictional characters in novels. Please. Give me a little credit here.

The truth, as I see it, is that reading enriches your life. It causes you to reflect on your own life, your thoughts, and your actions. It makes you understand that the world is a bigger place than just the part you live in. I also think it makes you a more thoughtful person, and you operate on a deeper level of life - not just a shallow existence of one.

I do not stay holed up in my library and live my life through books. I absolutely enjoy the worlds I travel to through reading, but I also enjoy the world outside my own front door. I know how to socially interact with the world and do so quite often. In fact, as a teacher, it is imperative I have good communication skills - not only for my students, but also because I communicate with parents, administrators, and my co-workers. 

Do I sound slightly defensive? Let me tell you why.

My youngest daughter has mentioned, on more than one occasion, that I don't understand what she wants out of life because I "prefer to live in books." She says it like it's a bad thing. Of course, as I said before, I don't live in books. In the same breath she likes to throw that out at me, she'll complain I travel too much, or I'm not around enough. Have I mentioned this is the daughter who joined the Navy and doesn't even live at home anymore?

Now, I don't get too upset about her incorrect analysis. She's nineteen. It's the only excuse she needs. I also understand that she only sees me as "mom" and doesn't understand all the complexities of my life. I know she never will and that's OK, she's not supposed to understand. So, you can see why she gets a "free pass" on her judgment of me. I should also mention her judgement of me doesn't bother me. Never has. 

But, then, something else happened.

A few days ago, I was having a nice conversation with my older brother. We were talking about education and "kids today" and how technology seems to have taken over the world. In an off-handed comment, my brother said he didn't see how someone who "stuck their head in a book all day" was any different than someone who had their head stuck in a computer game all day...


He then proceeded to make some comment about how they're both 'escapism' or 'checking out from the world' and...well, quite frankly, I'm unclear on exactly what he said after that because my ears were still ringing from his incorrect analysis that all book lovers are reclusive hermits who need to escape from the world into a book and that he thinks what book lovers do is the same as kids playing computer games.

"Who are you and WHAT did you do with my brother?"

Like Caesar, I felt betrayed. 

Some things I expect from a nineteen year old daughter, but not my older brother. He knows better. He's smarter than that. I really mulled over his words and wondered why I felt so betrayed at such a general statement coming from someone who has known me, literally, since the day I was born. I knew it had to do with something bigger than just me and my love of books.

I realized it's because I feel I fight the good fight every day of trying to teach children to read and teach them why it's important. I truly believe, in the deepest part of my heart, that reading teaches empathy and makes you a more open-minded, well-rounded individual. I think reading makes you a better person. I'm not just trying to help children become good readers. Through reading, I'm trying to encourage children to become better human beings.

To have my passion reduced to the same category as computer games was...unthinkable. Not to mention, many of the students I have who read on the lowest levels and struggle the most in their reading are usually very proud to label themselves "gamers" and brag about their skills (and the amount of time they spend) at playing games. I often get asked if reading something on their computer games counts as their "reading time" for homework! 

And...before you start thinking my students who are "gamers" may be playing things that actually require some real reading (like mystery games or educational games), let me assure you that we're talking about games from the "Halo" and "Grand Theft Auto" and "Call of Duty" series.

And my brother thinks it's all the same?!


Unlike Caesar, though, I will not give up the fight because my brother also raised his verbal dagger. It just isn't the way I'm wired. Reading is important! It has enriched my life in more ways than I can say. I have learned so much about the world, other people, history, life, and myself through reading.

No, I'm not like Caesar at all. I will fight the good fight and passionately teach the importance of reading until there isn't a breath left in me,...or - as I tell my students - until they pry my cold, dead hands off the school doors...

and, even then, ghost will haunt every student I've ever taught. It will hover over their heads and whisper, "What good things have you read today that added something positive and insightful to your life?" :)

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