If there’s one thing teachers across disciplines, grade levels, and dispositions can agree on, it’s that reading is essential to the success of our students. (Okay, okay—we can also probably agree that February is too long, even if it’s the “shortest month”). Whether it’s a word problem about pizza and fractions, a set of instructions for a chemistry lab, a news article about upcoming elections, or a novel set in the American South, students need their reading, comprehension, and interpretation skills in every subject. Reading promotes empathy, identity formation, and community. It encourages higher level thinking, calms our nervous systems, and promotes sharpness of mind as we age. This isn’t news to most of us.
But . . . many of you busy teachers might not be able to bring to mind the last book you read for personal pleasure or edification. There’s always something else to be done—a parent to email, a child to parent, a paper to grade, a meeting to attend. Many of us don’t cultivate a habit for reading, and so it falls by the wayside. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, when our students also show reticence to read.
In our annual resource review issue, we hope to provide you with a smattering of books and other tools you can use in your classroom. This month, we’ve got picture books and young adult novels and nonfiction about reconciliation for your students, and we’ve got a book about grading, a devotional, and a useful app for you. And, of course, we’ve got our own personal recommendations, below. We wish you a blessed and energetic end to the school year and a restorative and story-filled summer ahead.
—Abby and Steve
Our review issue this year is full of books, so I thought I would bring you two movie recommendations to balance out your spring plate. Both are a favorite genre of mine (and, I suspect, of many teachers): the coming of age story. First, check out Licorice Pizza, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Two young adults form a close and quirky bond as they grow up one summer in Southern California, and any high school teacher will laugh out loud at their awkward exchanges and harebrained get-rich-quick schemes. The second film is C’mon C’mon, directed by Mike Mills. The star here is the relationship between Joaquin Phoenix’s character and his sweet and hyperactive nine-year-old nephew, who is feeling his way through some big and very adult emotions. The beautiful black and white cinematography matches the tone, which teeters between anxious and nostalgic, perfectly.
I actually can remember the last book I read for pleasure. Over January, I managed to read A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles, which takes place almost entirely in one hotel in Moscow. It begins in 1922, when the title character, Count Rostov, is sentenced to house arrest by a commissariat rather than being executed for being an aristocrat. The novel spans thirty-two years of his life as he reinvents himself, spars with Bolsheviks, and raises a young woman almost as his daughter. It started slowly for me, but I grew to admire the old Count. Apparently, it will soon be made into a “major television series,” but I encourage you to read the book first.