I'm currently working my way through Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild, and I believe she and I are kindred spirits. When I read The Book Whisperer a few years ago, my life was changed. Before I was introduced to Donalyn, I didn't realize there were other people out there who, like me, can spend an entire Saturday reading and not feel guilty about it or who light up when asked about what they are currently reading. Until I discovered this, I was slightly embarrassed by my love of reading. I used to think that people viewed my passion as a waste of time. I am so grateful for Donalyn and her writing. My passion is even deeper now that I know I am not alone, and I have been using that passion for all kinds of good in my classroom.
On page 17 of Reading in the Wild, Donalyn talks about a question she asks her students when it comes to how and when they read. She asks them to tell her if they have ever devoured a book in one sitting or spent several days devoted to one long book. What a great question and I have a fantastic answer! I'm taking a risk here, and before I do so, I just want to warn you all that I am a nerd (and I'm completely okay with that). Bear with me on this one!
On July 21, 2007, the conclusion of my favorite series of all time came out: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. At that time I was between my freshman and sophomore years of college. My family still lived on our dairy farm, which was seven miles (almost all gravel roads) outside of the nearest "big town" (population: about 5,000 people). Since it was summer break, I was working at a daycare in that town and I had plenty of free time to enjoy the things I loved. I had been looking forward to this day for years!
I came to the Harry Potter scene later than many. My younger brother (who is not a wild reader) actually read Sorcerer's Stone before me; I believe my mom ordered it for him from a book order. After he finished it, it sat around our house for quite some time. I was bored one day when I discovered it sitting on a shelf. With nothing better to do, I picked it up. I wasn't in love with it after the first couple of pages; it took me a little while to get into it. Once that happened, though, I was hooked.
I quickly read through the books that were published at the time (Sorcerer's Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Goblet of Fire). Then, the waiting began. As each of the remaining books in the series was published, I got my hands on them as quickly as possible and often read them in the span of just a few days. My mom (who definitely is a wild reader) supported me in my love for the series. When Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out, our local grocery store had a promotion. For every $100 a person spent in their store, that person would receive a ticket. Get ten tickets, and you get a free copy of Order of the Phoenix! Luckily, I come from a big family (7 people in all), so spending $100 on groceries was easy for my mom. She got the ten tickets in no time, and I got myself a free copy of the book and was in heaven!
Of course the book I was most looking forward to was the conclusion of the series. I simply had to know how it would all turn out! The morning of July 21, 2007, I woke up early. Our local Walmart opened at 7:00 am, and I was determined to buy the first copy of the book in our town. The Pallet(which was like a glowing beacon of hopes and dreams), stacked many books deep, had been sitting inside that Walmart, all wrapped up, for a few days, and I was excited to finally be able to touch the words that held the ending of my favorite story. I hopped in my car at 6:45 and made the fifteen minute trip into town. As I pulled into the parking lot, the store opened. I hightailed it to The Pallet and grabbed my very own copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The moment was completely bittersweet. Excitement coursed through my veins, and it took all of my will power to not sit in my car in that Walmart parking lot all day and read that book! This was the end though; once I finished this one, my relationship with Harry would be complete.
I did manage to get myself to drive home before I began to read, but once I was home, I didn't stop reading except to have a meal here and there. Around 1:00 am on the morning of July 22, 2007, I finished the greatest series ever written (in my opinion, of course - you can disagree with me). I read all 784 pages in one day, and that day still sticks out in my mind as one of the greatest days of my life! It ended in tears, of course. It was over after all; there would be no more new books about Harry, Ron, and Hermione, who I considered to be my friends. What a wonderful way to end it all though! Through those tears, I was grinning from ear to ear.
This book is not the only one I have devoured in a day, but it's the one that played the biggest role in my life as a reader. Our souls can absolutely connect with real people and fictional characters through the gift of the written word. My goal is to help my students achieve those same moments in their reading lives. I know for sure that my life wouldn't be quite the same if I hadn't met Harry, Ron, and Hermione.