Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Relationship with Literature

I remember gleefully giggling when my mother read my sister and I Hop on Pop, as we considered the possibility of jumping on our father who sat innocently in the living room. I recall devouring The Cat in the Hat, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and Green Eggs and Ham when I began to read on my own. Reared a Christian, I didn’t think it was Christmas until I saw The Grinch Who Stole Christmas on TV.

When I began teaching college students, I brought The Sneetches and The Butter Battle Book into the classroom to talk about symbolism and satire. When Dr. Seuss passed away in September 1991, I was devastated, but my despair broke that weekend when Jesse Jackson read Green Eggs and Ham on Saturday Night Live (the video is low quality and out of sync, but still a great memory. It may be best to listen rather than watching).



Of the many books that I’ve read, the books by Dr. Seuss have given me some of my most memorable experiences as a reader, a writer, and a teacher. Tom Romano describes an assignment in his English Education article “Relationships with Literature” that asks students to recall their own unforgettable experiences with texts. The end of the activity is to encourage students to “remind themselves what has really mattered to them about reading literature” (9). As teachers everywhere begin planning for Read Across America, perhaps that kind of reminder is the most important thing we can give students. If we can remind them of the joys of reading, every day can be Read Across America day.

What would I do in the classroom to encourage students to connect with literature? Here are some possibilities. Feel free to suggest your own in the comments.

  • Discuss the wide range of ways that text can be defined, and then ask students to share their earliest memories of texts.
  • Have students respond to the questions about best and worst experiences with literature included in Romano’s article.
  • Ask students to listen to Jesse Jackson’s reading of Green Eggs and Ham for students, and then ask them how they might take a favorite book and read it in their own favorite style.
  • Encourage students to create inventories of favorite texts that they own and wish lists for texts that they’d like to own or reading plans for books that they want to read soon.
  • Have students share a favorite text with someone else, reading it aloud together. Students can share with younger readers, family members, or others in their classes. Encourage students to discuss why the text is a favorite.
  • Ask students to review the texts they read, and then rate them just as they might rank favorite tunes on their iPods. After choosing a number of stars for the texts, ask students to talk about why they choose the ratings they did.
  • Allow class time for students to read and talk about reading with one another. You might try a DEAR program or Daily Book Boost to get everyone into reading and sharing favorite texts.

5 comments:

miscellanneous said...

Where was I in 1991 to have missed that? Jeez. And I was thinking of Dr. Seuss just this morning, because the snow around here is melting and slumping and hanging off the trees in all the ways he used to draw.

And it is those connections with my own memories and experiences that sucked me into reading: I'll never forget finding a whole shelf of "Little Miss" books in the public library when I was 10, books about girls my age in different time periods in US history: Books about girls! Like me!

It was remembering that that helped most when I got to work with high-school-age people who did not like to read (and who had decided no longer to go to school) in South Central Los Angeles. They talked about the books and stories they had been asked to read in school, and most of them had never encountered literature that had anything to do with the lives they led. So we went out and found as many of those books as we could, and people read. Came in the next class having finished something, saying "This is the first book I've ever read."

Anonymous said...

I think it is also so important to instill in our student teachers that most of our best memories with text do not involved contrived comprehension activities and vocabulary lessons but authentic engagement and conversation and this is what we in turn need to give back to the children in our classroom despite policy that would lead us to do otherwise.

Dorothy Suskind

Anonymous said...

Well said, Dorothy. I wish everyone understood that point!

Sandy Hayes said...

Traci -
Thanks for reminding me that I intended to do something special this year. Maybe some nostalgic writing as well as reading.

My 8th grade classroom
(with appreciation for Dr. Seuss)

One kid,
two kid
read kid,
tube kid


This one has
an MP3

This one has a DVD
Say! What a lot
of things they see.

Yes some are PC. And some are Mac.
Some have cellphones in backpacks.

We see them come.
We see them go.

Some are fast.
And some are slow.
Some are high.
And some are low.

Not one of them
is like another.
Don't ask us why.
Go ask your mother


Some are smart
And some have heart
And some eat lunch
That makes them fart.

This verse is done. This verse was fun.
I’ll some day write another one.

With special thanks to Dr. Ted
Who once so very wisely said:

Every day,
from here to there,
funny things are everywhere.

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