The 6th Grade Book Group met on Tuesday, and we had such a good meeting (eight attended the meeting – only one member abstained from attending, and that was because he hated the book).  This group of kids is smart, funny, well-read, and increasingly more mature and sophisticated.  It’s a joy to see them growing up and to see them developing and voicing their thoughts and opinions.

We discussed Michelle Harrison’s 13 Treasures, a book that I’ll cover in more detail in a separate post.  Though our discussion did mostly focus on this particular book, my favorite part of the group meeting was when we each answered a question from the book club edition of Table Topics cards:  “Why do you like to read?”  This question really sparked everyone’s interest, and there were some great responses.  As always, it’s hard to completely replicate this kind of intense, rapid-fire conversation, but here’s my best attempt to remember everyone’s comments:

  • “I really like to read, then create a movie in my mind.”  To which I replied, “That sounds like something a teacher might say…”, prompting this passionately spoken follow-up response: “Yeah, but I really DO like to create a movie in my mind.  I like to imagine what the characters look like, what the scenery looks like, and to imagine how the book would come to life.”
  • “I really really like suspense in a book.  I really like it when I don’t know what’s going to happen next, and I’m on the edge of my seat.”
  • “I love fantasy and action – I love imaginary things.”
  • “I love the way that when you’re reading a book you completely and totally forget about everything else in your life – you’re so busy reading and imagining that you can’t think about other things.”  [Lots of agreement to this statement – reminding me, the grown-up, how tough it is to be a sixth grader.]
  • “I’m completely the opposite of Jane – I HATE suspense!!!  I hate not knowing what’s going to come next!!!!”
  • “I love when you finish a book and you can move on to the sequel, and continue to find out more about the characters and what happens to them.”
  • “I love reading and reading and reading, as much as I can, as fast as I can.”

There were many other great comments, which my aging brain cannot, unfortunately, remember.  And then there was a lull in the discussion, and I said, “It’s interesting to me that you all had great responses to this question, but no one had the response that I have – that I love to read because I love to see how authors use language, especially in really well-written books.”  And the kids agreed that yes, they mostly read for plot, not language.  So I mentioned that one of my favorite children’s books has an incredibly lovely first paragraph that makes me misty eyed every time I read it.  Surprisingly, most of the kids had never read Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, though one or two had seen the movie (and I told them there is absolutely NO comparison between the book and the movie).  I could see some of the group was intrigued by the idea of this lovely first paragraph, so I asked Suzy to go out into the children’s room and see if the book was on the shelf, which it was.  And I asked the kids to really listen to the words – to even close their eyes if they were going to be distracted by their neighbors, and I read this wonderful paragraph out loud:

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.  The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot.  It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.  Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone.  There is no thunder, no relieving rain.  These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.  (Babbitt, Natalie. Tuck Everlasting. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975.)

There was a moment of silence when I finished reading this paragraph, then one bright-eyed boy quietly said, “Could you read that again?”  Which I did.  And then there was more silence, and not much discussion of what I had just read, but I could tell that the kids were moved by Babbitt’s language.  Some things don’t need to be talked about – some things can just be understood by everyone in a room.

And then our time was up, and we had to clean up and distribute the books for our January meeting.  As the kids were leaving the room, I thanked them several times for a great meeting – and for being such a great group.  Thanks, guys, again, for your thoughts on books and reading.  It was inspiring!!

3 thoughts on “Reading”

  1. This was a book we read each year when I taught sixth grade English each year. I ALWAYS started this by reading aloud that first paragraph to the class. Just as in your case, there was silence afterward while the kids just absorbed the beautiful language. Thanks for reminding me of it.

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