I’m a little bleary eyed at the computer this morning. I’ve pumped up my caffeine intake to try to compensate.
Last night, well, if I’m being truthful it was this morning, I stayed up way too late. I huddled next to the lamp on my nightstand. When I climbed into bed I still had about half an inch of pages left. I’d started it Friday after school and churned quickly through the first half an inch. I can’t even remember, now, if it was Friday or Saturday night that I first read into the dark.
I just couldn’t stop. Even when my neck started to feel the strain and I shifted positions again and again to get comfortable, I could barely blink. I felt like a kid with a flashlight as I peeked ahead at the number of pages remaining and did the story math in my head about what still needed to happen before the end. How could I sleep before I knew if she’d find him. If he’d escape. If he’d live. If she could save her family or withstand the consequences of not. How could I put it down?
So with a delightfully guilty conscience…I didn’t.
I read through the night and into the wee smalls of this morning, in spite of a quick glance at the time which guaranteed I’d get no more than four hours of sleep.
And it was so worth it.
When was the last time you felt so utterly compelled by a story? When you couldn’t bear to tear yourself from the pages of a book? It had been a while for me. Sure, I’ve read things, good things even. But I hadn’t had the all consuming need to devour a story in quite some time.
And that got me thinking about students. Not even the reluctant or striving readers–though this is likely doubly true for them. I thought about most students. When is the last time that they felt this connected to a character or story? Had they, ever?
Recently, a teacher new to our team explained to me that she would simply have to put reading logs in place for accountability of home reading. Not having a relationship established, yet, I tread carefully. But in my minds eye flashed movies of children bursting off the couch or away from the dining room table as soon as the timer ended for their nightly 20 minutes, dutifully recording the pages and having a parent sign the formal document…then walking away from the book without a backward glance.
Then I played mental movies of the nights I went to tuck in my middle school son. I’d gently intrude on his far away look to alert him to the time. I’d sit quietly watching as his eyes continued to slide down the page, sometimes turning another one or two before he slid a finger in his page and folded the cover shut to look up. I’d smile that he was lost in his story and letting the tale tell him where to pause rather than the clock.
As teachers (and parents) do we foster the conditions that lead to that deeply immersed reading? Do we offer children books that hook them to the bone and demand to be read? Do we hold reading up as a joy and even at times a guilty pleasure? Do we gently turn out the lights and wish them good dreams…knowing that we’ve replaced the flashlight batteries and that their books are within reach from the pillow?
I hope so. I wouldn’t miss this experience for all the world, even though I’ll be tired after lunch and possibly irritable by dinner.
It was worth it!
If you’re wondering, I was reading Torch Against the Night, the second in the Ember in the Ashes quartet by Sabaa Tahir. It’s a YA tale of torn loyalties, life and death struggle, political intrigue, and love. I won’t be handing it to any of my K-5 readers, so it was entirely a guilty pleasure. I’d gotten the first in the series two years ago, where it kept me up into the small hours at ILA Boston. Then this February I bumped into this gem at The Strand bookstore in NYC. It’s been sitting by my bed waiting for a vacation…but crept higher and higher up the TBR pile. Vacation won’t start until next weekend, but this little escape was fantastical.