“The F Words in the Books I’ve Read and Shared”

One part of my daily reading diet is to drop in on the daily post at Nerdy Book Club. I find that it helps me to fill my R(R)DA (recommended reader daily allowance) of fellowship, community, new titles and old favorites.

Today’s post by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, “The Year I Met Peter” reminded me that we probably have that student in our room that has had great difficulty “fitting in” and the great responsibility we have as lead learners to assure a sort of inclusion for all of the members within that learning community.

There’s two places where people sometimes get missed on a regular basis: family reunions and schools. Later in life, these can change and become the workplace. . .and family reunions.

And this doesn’t come from a critical spirit. WE miss them. I miss them too. Every year. Here is the part where I feel the most trepidation in regard to teaching and classroom management–a national test of emotional and sociological inclusion. “Mr. Hankins, in the case of ____________, please speak to the measures you employed to make this person feel included and welcome.”

And not because I would fail completely, but because by passing with almost flying colors would suggest that I have a firm grasp of how this is done.

They come each year, 180+ strong splitting their days over a block eight schedule. It might  be easier to make sure everyone is included in the activities at a Pampered Chef party then to make sure every person in a learning community feels welcome, feels safe. . .feels validated. And, as Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s post so nicely reminds us. . .books can–and do–help us to do this.

Books are that point of sharing that serve as a bridge from hand to hand when the hands cannot firmly grasp for our human limitations. We cannot be there all of the time to make sure that a student feels included and safe. I get them for an hour and twenty minutes every other day. Then, they go to their other classrooms, to lunch, to their car or bus ride home. To their homes. To their families.

And then they come back. For another hour and twenty minutes.

This is why sharing books is so important. Without a doubt or reservation, sharing books–after my own home and family–is the biggest part of what I do. And why?

Because of all of the F words I find within them.

Oh, I’ve found F words in picture books. In middle grade titles. In the hottest YA releases.

They’re everywhere. F words.

I’ve found many, many F words in the personal professional development titles I read.

And I thought, maybe I am just too sensitive to the F words. Maybe I am selecting the wrong materials.

But then an esteemed friend will send/share a book.

Littered with F words.

I’ve even found F words in the textbooks we’ve adopted for our own classrooms.

F Word: Falling In

The great titles that hook us quickly invite us to fall into the pages. Cradled in the open pages of a book is probably the closest many of us will come to a sense of nurture–outside of family and friends–that many of us will ever know. The comfort that comes of returning to a beloved book is like the return of the prodigal page turner. The book to which we return stands by waiting with a quiet question:

“Are these the words you were looking for?”

F Word: Fitting In

Share with me one of your favorite characters and in that interaction we might talk about how you sense that you actually wore that character’s clothing, ate what they ate, interacted with the people they interacted with, laughed when they laughed, and cried when they cried. Good books help us to feel connected. As the saying goes, they remind us that “we are not alone.”

And when we share a book we love, aren’t we quietly saying, “I may not be able to help you, but I’d like you to meet _______________.” A good book fits like a dove-tail joint and we readers all know THAT title that became our fit after we fell.

F Word: Forgiveness

Reading books that have a great personal conflict or trial can show us the way to move forward (another F word). Students who have read through The Crucible in Room 210 and Room 407 find a way to come to terms with what it means to have character, even when that character has been tarnished. Books offer a redemption by proxy that cannot be overlooked. Books stand by as our one remaining tool of character education that no one has found a way to limit or mandate yet.

F Word: Fun

I find a little bit of this every day in the reading and sharing of books. We could say a lot here about the need to put a little fun into our common core schema, but let’s just talk about one part of fun. Raise your hand if you think it is great fun each day to log onto Facebook or Twitter and see someone within the reading community sharing some new book they’ve read? Maybe they have happened upon that new Advanced Reader Copy (jealous can be fun) or they have just discovered (fell into) a book that you loved (and you begin to sense a fitting in). This is great fun for me.

F Words: Friend/Friendship

Two of the most prominent F words to come out of books and book sharing. Find me a title that doesn’t have a component of friendship and I will have to assume it is either an existentialist work or something by Cormac McCarthy (and I have found F words in these too, but they don’t really fit today’s thinking–perhaps another time).

I’d like to think that we could switch up the popular phrase “friends with benefits” to “friends with books.” They never fail. Many of mine show up at conferences having made as much room for the books they will share upon arrival as room they have made for the books they will take away upon departure.

F Word: Fellowship

When people who read begin entering into quiet social contracts of fellowship like those described by Teri Lesesne in her recent blog post “Where Do Ideas Come From?” we begin to see the F words all come together.

We fall into a group where we sense there are others just like us. There’s another one. Sitting by the fountain (an F word that doesn’t really work within the scope of this post. . .but an F word I wanted to point out. I like fountains). Move a little closer. See if you can tell what book they are holding by the cover art. Hold your book up a little more. Make it evident that you are one too.

We know that the books help us to fit in, because books are the glue that hold readers together. The mental annotations we create when reading a book becomes the adhesive that binds our conversations and interactions. And our continued sharing of books and stories.

We begin to sense a forgiveness for a love of an activity that has come with its own pejorative terms: geek. . nerd. . .bookworm. Within these reading communities–while there is really no need we find (another F word)–a sense of forgiveness for falling in love with the books that fit.

And the fellowship. . .my friends within the business and the pleasure of reading and sharing books hold a very special place in my heart. I need not list them here as they know who they are and what they mean to me.

And we have the opportunity each school year to extend this invitation to younger readers. Younger readers who think they don’t fit in. Perhaps even with us. . .because. . .we read. They might feel as though they don’t fit in because they think they have fallen out of love with reading and therefore find themselves outside of the fellowship. And the fun.

A book can serve as an invitation back into the fold (hmm. . .another F word). And into the fellowship of readers we have found (a past tense form of an F word already identified).

So. . .how does a quick thought capture become a blog post of almost 1500 words?

Fortitude. It’s an F word.

As is forward. That place we were going when we stopped to talk about books. Although backward can be nice too. And sideways too. Maybe circles.

But now this whole thing has taken on a sense of frolic (do I need to say it at this point?)





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