Why We Do What We Do

Recently I had the opportunity to attend an Institute at St. Mark’s School of Texas, a peer institution here in Dallas, Texas. The keynote speaker for the Institute was Jim Burke. Mr. Burke is the author of numerous books on education, specifically books relating to best practices in teaching English class. Before attending the Institute I jumped on Amazon to research Mr. Burke’s titles. As a Librarian, the book that stood out to me was I Hear America Reading: Why We Read What We Read. I ordered a copy and, once I started reading it, the book reminded me why I love my profession so much.

“In an era of decreasing commitment to literacy……it is no surprise that most students, too, are bypassing books.” Mr. Burke, an English teacher, wrote these words in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle. He then encouraged readers to write to the students in his high school English class and tell the students about experiences with books and how books have played an important role in life. Over one thousand pages of letters arrived. I Hear America Reading is a collection of some of these letters.

As I read the letters from librarians, artists, cattle ranchers, elementary school students and retired senior citizens it made me appreciate the joy that my job can bring. So often we lament the changing face and role of libraries. So often we focus on technology and how we have to have the latest, greatest and best in order to remain relevant. So often we feel like we have to justify our role to our administrators, fellow educations and community. It was refreshing to read letters from people that simply enjoy reading, and what a remarkable job we have to help facilitate the love of reading!

From one letter: “When I was twelve years old, I read Theodore Sturgeon’s scary fiction book More Than Human. I liked the part of the psychiatrist so much that I decided to become one. I’ve been a psychiatrist for twenty years now, and I love it.”

From another letter (a second grade student): “I like reading because when you keep growing and you keep on reading when you grow up you may be a famous reader and you may even sit on the stage and read so keep on reading…”

Last one! (from a third grader): “I have a Rocking Book, Godzilla is the title. I can’t wait for you to read it. It is about Godzilla trying to destroy the city. You will think it is cool. You can read it if you want!”

Happy Summer!! 🙂

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