Some thoughts on long books, withdrawn library books, and reading to define our own experience (the last from Alberto Manguel).Continue Reading
“We look over with a sigh the monumental libraries … The inspection of the catalgoue brings me continually back to the few standard writers who are on every private shelf; and to these it can only afford only the most slight and casual additions. The crowds and centuries of books are only commentary and elucidation, echoes and weakeners of these few great voices of Time.”
“I find certain books vital and spermatic, not leaving the reader what he was; he shuts the book a richer man. I would never willingly read any others than such.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have often felt this way. I sometimes find myself panicking on how relatively few books I’ll read in my lifetime. Just do the math: if I read ten a month, that’s 120 a year, times another fifty or sixty years. It’s a very small number when put in that perspective.
But really, I do not need to read every book. Emerson’s reminder is comforting to me for that reason. And I love shutting a book and finding myself a richer person. While I sometimes read lighter fare or read quickly, I often still find myself a bit changed by having read the book. In some way, the books I choose give me satisfaction and strength.
Some of the great voices of time that I’ve read: Homer (I do need to reread him again), Shakespeare (I often seeing his familiar story arcs in later works), Charles Dickens’ , Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.So many of the poets I’ve been revisiting this month for poetry month. Poets just do such a great job of capturing emotion and changing me in a short space.
Which authors and/or works are on your private shelf (an imaginary shelf is fine)? Which voices are “the great voices of time” for you?
Reading Reflections is an occasional feature in which I comment on an article or essay about reading. (I haven’t posted one for more than a year, but there is no reason I cannot begin again, right?)
The above quotes are from an essay called “Books” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted on pages 13-14 and 15, respectively, of Reading in Bed, edited by Steven Gilbar.
I’m probably going to be busy with family a lot more in the coming weeks thanks to the holidays, so my blogging and reading will lessen. But I do have a few books I hope to get to between now and the end of January: some are very long and intimidating, others not so intimidating. I’m looking forward to each of them and since I got my Christmas present early (a beautiful new Canon EOS with video functionality) I thought I’d try my hand at another vlog. (It’s been a long time since I’ve done a vlog.)
Bonus points are you can see my new haircut (I’m very pleased with it) and my Christmas cross stitch project. I had my new camera on the wrong setting the first time, so I had to do it a few times, and that’s why I may sound tired of repeating myself. There’s also an awkward splice because I had a coughing fit and I don’t think you wanted to watch that. I apologize in advance for the weird things — still getting a hang of this technology. I still think some setting is off. I’ll read the user manual before I do another vlog.
See the vlog after the jump.
My mother teaches English as a Second Language to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders at a public middle school. Although for the most part these kids are intelligent and have been successful in school in the past, most are learning English for the first time after moving to the USA from every continent. She has had students from China, Korea, Europe, Russia, Mexico, and even rural Africa. A few are a bit more advanced, having taken English classes in their native country. But they are all in her class because they cannot read English at a middle school level.
Since reading more helps one become a better reader, it’s important that they have reading material available to them, not just for academic subjects but for fun. However, being in the public school system, my mom is limited by the school library, which is, in her words, “pathetic.” Beyond other issues, it only has books at a middle school reading level. She’s been given the chance to spend some money (certainly not enough) on lower reading level books to support her students, but she needs some help finding the perfect books to spend the money on.
She’s hoping to find some books that will help her students feel confident about their reading, even though it’s below their peers’ level. The books will give them the experience they need to gain vocabulary and reading competence. The books need to be no higher than a third-grade reading level, but the subject matter must be appropriate for a middle school student: interesting, entertaining, and certainly not something with a babyish-cover that would embarrass them in the middle of an ever-judgmental middle school crowd.
I have not read most of these books, since my son is below the early reader age and early chapter book age. In addition to those below (which are mostly early chapter books), early readers that do not say “I can read!” and First steps to reading!” on them might be useful for the lowest level kids. Any suggestions that you may have, or comments on these books that you have read, would be appreciated!
I found the interest levels and reading levels (which refer to grade levels) from the Scholastic Teacher Book Wizard tool, a nice resource for discovering books before you buy them. Many of the books I’ve listed say “interest level grades 3 to 5;” I’d be interested to know whether they might also appeal to grades 6 to 8. Please comment if you know!