I have watched the power of a story change a life. I have seen a child become so engrossed in a book that they carry it everywhere with them and find a way to put it into any conversation. And when you can have a child fall in love with a book, it changes them…..and you.
I’ve been book-talking books at my school for the last few weeks. Sharing stories that I think they would love or bringing students back to my office to peruse my book shelf in the hopes of finding that book that would finally hook them. That would show them the power of the words upon the pages.
Two weeks ago, a little boy came into my office asking if I could help him find something “good to read”. We talked for a while about what he loved and I ended up giving up a copy of Star Wars: The Lost Legion by Tracey West and Jake Forbes. He was so excited and rushed out of my office clutching the book close to his chest.
Then this morning happened.
I was in the hallway greeting kids like I do every morning and I see him come rushing up to me….”Mr. Nesloney! I finished this book! It was perfect and you must recommend it to every 3rd grader!” He was beaming and so proud of himself. As I took the book from him, I was flipping through pages as we talked about his favorite characters, what moved him, and so on. While flipping through the pages I noticed a dog-eared page and a few tattered pages.
It actually made me smile a little. When I came to the tattered pages, I turned to him and said, “hey, my book came back a little rougher than how I gave it to you.” His response? “I’m sorry Mr Nesloney, I may have just loved the book a little too hard.”
Immediately tears were in my eyes. So often when I tell colleagues or other adults that I hand out my personal books to students, they will gasp. Or their first question might be, “aren’t you afraid they will rip the pages, or lose it, or not take care of it?” And you know what? Many books I’ve given out have been ripped, have been lost, or have been destroyed.
But then I remember what I heard Donalyn Miller say one time, “I’d rather lose a book, than lose a reader”.
When that little boy told me he might have “loved the book a little too hard”, I could have scolded him for ripping the pages. I could have lectured him on proper book etiquette. And in doing so, I could have destroyed his 3rd grade reading heart.
Instead, I looked down at him, holding the book with the tattered pages in my hands, smiled, and said “It’s ok, sometimes I love books a little hard too”.