Reading and Learning

I was not born a reader. I struggled with words on the page flowing into coherency, especially if there was an expected pace. I clearly remember in second grade being heartbroken as I decided I would not be able to be a professional singer as I could not read the words on the music sheet fast enough for the song to work. In high school, I struggled to keep up on textbook reading as I was just so slow. I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.

My own children love to read. To continue to encourage their love of reading, I began a “Battle of the Books” team at their school and signed up to coach. Through the course of the season of reading, I read as many books on the list as possible. This year, I read a fascinating (and depressing) work of historical fiction. Written by Ruta Sepetys, Salt to the Sea tells the story of people escaping East Germany in hopes of taking a ship to West Germany to escape the invading Russian soldiers during WWII. The characters in the book captured my heart. When I finished the book and read the back cover (I know, I should have read it first), I discovered the story of the ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff, was true. I was shocked. I won’t give away anymore, but I strongly encourage you to read this book!

So intrigued by this piece of historical fiction, I picked up Sepetys’ book Between Shades of Gray. From the first chapter, I could hardly put it down. The unimaginable circumstances people from the Baltic States endured prior to, during, and after WWII are gut-wrenching. After finishing the book, I read the author’s note and it struck me. Ms. Sepetys asked her readers to tell someone about these stories – the stories of people from Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. I am moved enough to encourage you to 1. read the book, and 2. tell the stories.

Why am I talking about this on my blog about science and education, you may ask? Well, I bring it back to reading. I wanted to read these books. I wanted to learn about the stories of these people. I wonder what my feelings toward reading would have been in high school if I had been given these types of books to read. I don’t know. Maybe it is because it is by choice that I picked these up to read that I had such a response to their content. Maybe, though, if this type of material were brought to me in a classroom I would have connected with the content in a much more profound way. Maybe.

I know there are historical books about science and scientists. Many of them are long and unsuitable for my classroom. However, I am thinking seriously about bringing historical fiction into my curriculum at some point soon. I think students need to connect with the people of science, not just the content. Maybe those connections will help students make sense of the science in a much more tangible way. Maybe.

If you have any book suggestions, I would love to hear them 🙂

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