Sunday, January 06, 2019

Winter Break #bookaday and a Plan for my 2019 (Guilt-Free) Reading

I am so glad that Donalyn Miller invented Winter Break #bookaday. I always participate in Summer #bookaday and loved thinking about what I might read for Winter Break #bookaday.  I counted the days off during break and set a goal to read 15 books. I ended up reading 12 and feel good about that. I read a pretty good variety--picture books, middle grade, professional, etc. Below are screenshots of my Goodreads page of the books I completed over break. I would never had read this many and felt a bit caught up had it not been for Donalyn's #bookaday.  And I love so many of the new 2018 middle grade books that I read!

I didn't get to all 15 titles because a few days ago--a few days before the last day of break, I took a look at my stack of middle grade novels I had hoped to finish as part of Winter Break #bookaday and I decided I was finished. I realized that no matter how many books I read before awards are announced in January, there are books I will miss. I decided that the reading was starting to feel like work and the pile felt a bit overwhelming. And I realized that even though I had read a ton, I had not read the one adult fiction book I have been hoping to read for weeks.

Around the same time, Pernille Ripp wrote this piece, On Book Quantity and the Damage it Can (Sometimes) Do, on her blog. I had just reflected on my own reading goals (and not meeting them) here on the blog last week. So I have some new reading thoughts going into 2019:

Mary Lee and I started this blog 13 years ago as a way to read and predict the Newbery winner before it was announced. It was fun and I still love that part of my reading. And I love knowing so many books to recommend to my students and to talk to them about. But I have learned that no matter how many books I read, there are books I miss.  I can't read everything and that is a hard reality as someone who loves good books.  Moving to 5th grade a couple years ago, I wanted to catch up on the 5th grade books and to be current so I knew that I'd need to commit a few years to that.  So I've been reading frantically to keep up with books that might be great for my 5th graders.

But, I've realized that sometimes my goals get in the way of my bigger life as a reader. I've been following Katherine Sokolowski as she has added romance reading back into her reading life, letting go of the guilt and knowing that she still reads plenty to recommend books to her students.  I love reading middle grade books--they are not work to me--I think they are some of the best books out there in the world. But when I limit myself to reading only the books that I might share with my students, my own reading life feels more like a job than an authentic life as a reader.

I have been wanting to read Barbara Kingsolver's new book Unsheltered since I purchased it the day it was published. I started (but have not gotten very far) Michelle Obama's book Becoming on Audible. I've had YA books The Belles and Children of Bone and Blood on my stack for months. And I keep hearing about There There, another adult book. I want to read. But I have made almost no time for books like this during the last 2 years. I have so many friends and relatives who I used to talk about books with. People who continue to recommend adult fiction to me --I miss talking to those people about books we read.

So I am thinking about just being a reader this year. A reader with a goal of reading 200ish books. A reader who loves to participate in Winter Break, Spring Break and Summer #bookaday. A reader who loves to share books with my students and to have authentic conversations about books we've read. A reader who loves to predict the award winners before they are announced. A reader who recognizes times when reading begins to feel like a chore because of constraints I place on myself. A reader who doesn't feel guilty about the books that I haven't read.  This year my goal is to just be a reader.  To be a reader who reads books and other things that sound good. To read books that stretch me, that friends recommend, and to let go of the guilt I carry about not reading enough, not reading the best books, not knowing the award winners before they are announced. 

I am going to keep in mind this important quote Carol Jago recently shared in her post Why Read on NCTE's blog:

"Love for books drew us to this profession, yet in many cases as soon as we were handed the keys to a classroom, our personal reading was put on hold. With student essays piling up, we feel guilty about picking up a novel. The lure of Twitter doesn’t help, either. But when teachers stop reading, we can easily forget why we went into the classroom in the first place.

Our adult reading lives need nurturing every bit as much as those of our students. To insure that we continue to grow as readers, we need to find ways to be nourished in the company of other adult readers, doing what we love to do best. Don’t think of reading as a guilty pleasure, but rather as professional development."

To kick off the year, in January, I plan to not read any middle grade novels. I am giving myself permission to not rush to read every potential Newbery winner and I am going to give myself permission to nurture my adult reading life again --without considering it a "guilty pleasure".  I'll keep you posted!

1 comment:

  1. Yes! I am applauding this post. I do sometimes feel guilty that I don't keep up better with the latest YA and middle grade titles, but reading is one of the things I love most in this world, and I can't give up my own grown-up reading. I try to sprinkle in middle school level books, particularly ones recommended by my students, and I read a lot of reviews and listen to podcasts about what's coming out, but I strive more to model being a reader. I love books, and my students know that.

    I have a similar struggle with the way keeping up with my students' writing interferes with my own writing, both because I don't have the time and because I don't have the creative bandwidth once I've read a bazillion pieces of student work. I'm always figuring out how to balance being a reader and writer with being a teacher of reading and writing.


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