Why I Read

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait by her sister Cassandra, 1810 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I started reading when I was three. My grandmother in England had been a classical pianist in a symphony and taught at Cambridge University. My grandmother was an elegant woman, very refined, a connoisseur of tea, believed a child should have proper etiquette, and strive for the best education possible.

I was a military brat that moved yearly and sometimes twice yearly. I was probably not the refined little lady that my grandmother had envisioned for a granddaughter but she never let on. She spent hours teaching me how to prepare and drink the proper cup of tea and how to read. Both lessons I have never forgotten and will always be thankful to my Grandmother for taking the time and teaching me.

As soon as I could read a book without help, I was off and running and I do mean that literally. I was eagerly running to the library to find a new book to read. Reading became my best friend. When you move every year there are no friends to play or talk with, let alone visit. I was always the new kid in every school – all 22 of them.

I challenged myself to read more and more difficult books. In kindergarten, we lived in Bicknell Indiana while my Dad served in Korea. I would go to the City Hall every day and venture down to the basement, which housed the library. I read every Beatrix Potter book I could find. I loved her books; my love of Beatrix Potter grew into my live of classical literature. I adored Emily Bronte and Jane Austen. The classics teach lessons about life, decisions, humanity, history, and even about the future. From reading the classics, I understand how people lived and how we should live to be better people.

My time in Bicknell was well spent, for the first time in my life I had friends and these friends I have kept for a lifetime. As my Dad served in Vietnam or was stationed away from us, we would return home to Bicknell and these friends always embraced me. To this day I am thankful for my North Knox friends who may never relies what their kindness meant to me and still means to me to this day. When you are a military brat, you are from everywhere and nowhere. You do not really belong or fit in anywhere. It is a lonesome feeling even to this day.

As a became older I fell in love with other genres thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi, and general literature. I would pick up a book and within a day or two, I would be finished. I always felt like I was saying goodbye to a friend each time I finished a book. In a way, I was saying goodbye to all the characters that lived in my head. I later became engrossed in biographies. I love to read the letters of famous people like Einstein, Newton, and Vincent van Gogh. Reading the letters is like getting to know the most intimate side of each of them.

There are many authors I follow and books that I re-read each year. One of them is Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Each time I re-read a book I see something new, something I missed the last time I read the book. Books provide endless lessons to me on living life with grace. I can’t imagine not reading. I want to share my love of reading with other people that is why I became a literacy tutor and later a reading teacher. I have since earned a master’s in reading and literature. I want to teach about books, have grand conversations with students, and instill my love of reading with them. I am still trying to figure out how to share this love with students who show little interest in a book or a story when I figure it out I will tell you, until then I will keep trying.

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Humanity and the class of 2013

I graduated from a master’s program that focused on “The Great Books Philosophy” from American Military University. I love classical literature and have read classical literature since I was a child. When people ask, why did I choose such a major and I did choose this, as I have a master’s in Liberal studies in Reading and English from Fort Hays State University. I answer quite simply to learn and teach about humanity. Humanity has become secondary in our lives with the advent of technology. I love technology and have worked in the technology field for over 15 years. I have an undergraduate degree in Robotics and I have taught computer repair and electronics. Technology is essential in our lives. However, there is a down side; we are losing sight of virtue, critical thinking skills, and compassion. Schools focus on common core and standards, which in themselves are great but they do not focus on developing character or empathy.

These qualities are important to me as a person, a student, and an educator. I am a teacher at Vincennes Lincoln High School, an adjunct instructor at both Vincennes University and Frontier Community College. I want my students to read literature not just for enjoyment or knowledge but to take away lessons about kindness and justice. “Virtue rejects facility to be her companion. She requires a craggy, rough and thorny way” (Michel de Montaigne). I know this to be true, life is difficult and sometimes filled with heartache, but life is also wonderful and full are special moments. I have experienced both great sorrow and great joy. As education moves away from teaching about humanity society loses something and our children will graduate without the benefit of these important lessons.

The class of 2013 will be soon be leaving their educational institutions and going out into the world. They will face challenges that they may not be prepared to face. Have we let these students down in some way? Have we taught children to embrace the challenges with grace and dignity? Have we stressed that we do not always get what we want and that no is sometimes the right answer? Have we taught our children to be empathetic to other people and to the world around them? In the words of George Bernard – “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of humanity.”

I challenge the class of 2013 to seek out challenges, face difficulties with grace, and to care about the people and the world around them. I also challenge them to read the classics think about the lessons they are learning. Life is amazing and there is so much more out there than students learn in school and it is up to each individual to keep learning.