This fall I had the pleasure of joining a classroom of Alabama fourth graders to talk about books and reading (and podcasting!). Spending time with young readers is a joy, and just thinking of our time together puts a big smile on my face.
In class, these students have been learning about the importance of knowing themselves as readers, and have been working on developing their own reading identities. To that end, their teachers introduced the project “100 Things About Me as a Reader,” as captured in this blog post, and they’ve been busy brainstorming their lists ever since. Their goal is to recognize 100 things about their reading lives by the end of the school year.
The students shared examples of their lists-in-progress, and I so enjoyed perusing their entries. (I wish you could see all these in the fourth graders’ handwriting!) A sampling:
• “I don’t like books about gross stuff.”
• “It is hard for me to read when people are talking.”
• “I like to tell my brother mom about all the books I have read.”
• “I do not like sad books or long books.”
• “I dislike books with over 500 pages.”
• “I like reading series in order.”
• “I like to eat and snoggle when I read.”
• “I like to talk about what’s going on in my books.”
• “I get distracted sometimes.”
• “I used to hate reading but now I LOVE to read.”
To help them build their lists, they’re talking with other readers, because listening to others reflect on their reading lives helps you think about your own. That’s where I come in! Over Zoom, we chatted about my favorite books, favorite genres, favorite places to read, where I like to get my books, how to tackle a hard book, how to figure out what to read next, and what books I thought they might enjoy. (I asked my own fifth grader for recommendations in advance, and he pulled all these books off his own shelves so I could share them with the class.) I also answered a lot of podcast questions, because this class is starting their own!
We had a wonderful conversation, of course—we talked about books! After our time together, I told the fourth graders I’d start my own list. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
1. I’ve loved to read for as long as I can remember.
2. I read nearly every day—and on days when I don’t read, I don’t feel quite like myself.
3. When I was young I loved long books, but I’ve reached for them less as I’ve gotten older.
4. My dad read me Who’s Got the Apple and There’s a Monster at the End of This Book hundreds of times when I was a child.
5. I also became a devoted reader thanks to Nancy Drew, The Baby-Sitters Club, and Sweet Valley High.
6. I love reading so much I now read for a living.
7. Reading is my favorite hobby and my introverted coping mechanism of choice.
8. I usually read for at least an hour a day.
9. My favorite way to read is in a comfy chair with a good beverage nearby.
10. My most dependable reading time is the half-hour just before bed.
11. I’ll try almost any book genre.
12. My favorite (invented) genre is compulsively readable literary fiction.
13. I also especially enjoy books with unusual or thought-provoking structures: I never tire of seeing authors experiment on the page, even though the experiments aren’t always successful.
13. I love to sit down with cookbooks and read them like novels, especially when I’m feeling stressed.
14. I usually have multiple books going at one time: one audio book, one fiction, and one nonfiction. Or one novel with heavy themes, and one that feels lighter in mood.
15. Sometimes I stumble upon a book I don’t expect to love and it blows me away. These are among my favorite reading experiences! (Examples: West with the Night, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, Heating and Cooling.)
16. I rely on other readers when I’m deciding what to read next. Book reviews help sometimes, but personal recommendations are the best.
17. I adore talking about books with fellow readers.
18. I also enjoy talking with authors about their work. I always learn something new!
19. I love talking about books so much, I made that my job, too.
20. I believe every reader has a unique reading life…
21. And that when it comes to any experience in the reading life, it’s never just you.
22. I think some of the best book conversation revolves around books we didn’t enjoy.
23. I am an avowed book abandoner. This makes it easy to try almost anything.
24. I am also a habitual re-reader: I notice things on the second and third (and sixth and fifteenth) read that I couldn’t see on the first.
25. I don’t mind reading books I don’t enjoy, but I do mind reading books that don’t feel like they were worth the time I spent reading them.
26. I only started carefully tracking my reading in the past decade, and now I wish I’d done it my whole life.
27. I have more books on my To Be Read list than I will ever be able to read.
28. I feel out of sorts as a reader when I don’t read both old and new books, so I aim to read at least 30% backlist titles every year.
29. I love to listen to fiction and memoir on audio. I struggle to get through other nonfiction in this format.
30. Paper books are my favorite: I love to take notes on the front pages and in the margins, dog-ear the pages, and mark favorite passages with book darts.
31. I’ll use anything to mark my place, even though I own dozens of beautiful bookmarks.
32. Even though I own lots of books I haven’t read yet, I still buy new ones.
33. Sometimes I buy books just because they look pretty, even if I have no intention of reading them. (I’m looking at you, orange Penguins.)
34. I love visiting independent bookstores, both here in my town and when I travel. I’ve driven hours out of the way to visit a new-to-me bookstore!
35. I also love visiting libraries, especially my own local library, and go there at least once a week.
36. When it comes to books, I have a very difficult time choosing favorites, because so many have provided fabulous reading experiences and made a huge impact on my life.
This exercise doesn’t provide the final word on anyone’s reading life, but it serves as a thought-provoking conversation starter. I’m excited to hear how these fourth graders add to their lists. I’m sure they’ll inspire me to add to my own!
Thanks again to the fourth graders: you know you are! And thanks for providing me that beautiful journal (pictured up top) to record my 100 things. To all the grown-up readers, I hope this class inspires you to spend a moment reflecting on your reading life today.
What do you know about yourself as a reader? Would you help out these fourth graders and all your fellow readers by dropping a line item or two in comments? I sure would appreciate it, and I know this class would, too!
P.S. This exercise reminded me of my old list of 100 dreams and its subsequent update, as well as this quiz about discovering your reading personality. Have fun with these!