Reading and other forms of happiness

I often share "life stories" with my students. I have a million thoughts pop into my head on every subject that comes up, and there are things I wish people had told me when I was in high school, so I share them with my students. For instance, there are things we love to do, and there are ways to parlay those loves into a career. Find the thing you can't stop doing, figure out what drives you, and then put that same drive behind your future. No one wants to think about being 50 when he is 15, but it helps kids to know that one day, they will look back over their lives and think, If I'd only…

Or, maybe not. I saw a man on a bicycle in the pouring rain the other day. He was about 65 or so. He was fully dressed in street clothes, so not out for mere exercise. He was singing. Full on, top of his lungs, belting out a tune. Happy. I thought, Where does that kind of happy come from?  And maybe I know. 

This man obviously loved to sing. He probably didn't have a billion dollar music career, or he wouldn't have been getting soaked on a bicycle. He did what he loved, whenever it struck him, shared it with whomever could hear him, and it made him happy. 

I love to read. So, to make myself happy, I read. (Singing is pretty great, too.) But I also share that love of reading. I bring books to life for people who think reading is a bore. My job involves teaching reading strategies, but beyond that, I show the haters that reading opens worlds for them. Can they time travel? Yes. They can sit on the porch or lie in the bed and transport to 1930s Alabama, and get inside the heads of people who lived and breathed socially acceptable racism, and, through the eyes of a child, understand how that could have been normal. They can aspire to be defenders of the innocent, they can boil with rage over injustice, and they can learn how social classes kept people from realizing dreams. All from the front porch. 

By reading aloud to older students, and sharing my thoughts about the writer's intent, or what a seemingly obscure passage means, together we make heads and tails of the text, and they grow to appreciate the story, the knowledge, and the interactive quality of reading.  I'm teaching them how to become a part of the story. And the real story? Life. Their own. 


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