The daily musings of a substitute teacher in East Central Illinois.

Discovering New Books

Today I was a 6th grade Language Arts teacher at Mahomet-Seymour Jr. High. This job assignment came rather late–or early, really. Due to some unexpected events in the wee hours of the morning, I found myself awake at 1:30 am. I checked for an assignment, and there was nothing. So I went back to bed, then found myself awake again at 3:30 am. Thinking that there wasn’t anything, but deciding to check anyway, I was shocked to find this assignment available. So I took it, even though I knew I’d be waking up again in three hours in order to go to work.

I had a great day with the students in Mahomet. I knew several of the kids in each class as a result of my work as a Sunday school teacher with my wife for a couple of years. We moved and, as a result, moved congregations, but our former students all remember us. (It hasn’t been that long, anyway). The Language Arts program is a two-period combined block. The beginning of each block was spent in the library, where the students were expected to do silent reading and/or work on their nonfiction book reports. The second period was spent in the classroom reading a short story called The Dog of Pompeii and then discussing the theme of the story.

While in the library, I browsed through some reference books, read what a vocational guide had to say about being an elementary school teacher (it was kind of funny, really), and wandered about making sure all of the students were actually reading. I also browsed the fiction shelves, to see what the school had. I found it odd that they had the last volume in Frank Herbert’s Dune series, but not the first five. They had a smattering of John Grisham novels. The had the first book of Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising sequence, but not the rest.

And I discovered that Ms. Cooper had written other books. I don’t know why this has never even occurred to me before. I have always known her for the five books that I have read and loved and read again and again and again. Yet I have never once thought of seeing if she wrote anything else. Which is kind of ridiculous, since I can’t think of any author who wrote one book/series and then quit. I happened to pick up a copy of King of Shadows and read the first part of the first chapter but I didn’t finish. I should probably get a copy and read it, except that I am also reading John Grisham’s Ford County right now, and I kind of started reading Jean Craighead George’s Newberry Honor book, My Side of the Mountain. In addition, I have decided to finally tackle the entire Dune series. I just don’t know how many books I can submerse myself in before getting lost and confused.

However, I do love discovering new books, and I love helping my students discover them, too. Which is why I always look to see what they are reading and will always gladly offer advice if they are looking for something new. I am an openly avowed bibliophile and I believe that everyone else should be one, too. And we should all be discovering new books, whether fiction, nonfiction, or something in-between!

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