“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” — Joyce Carol Oates
I’ve always loved to read. I’ve been getting lost in books for as long as I can remember. I’ve been crying over books just as long.
I remember sitting in Mrs. Carter’s 6th grade Language Arts class reading Walt Morey’s Gentle Ben and trying not to let anyone see the tears as Mark had to make the heartbreaking decision that would save Ben’s life.
And Little Women? It didn’t matter how many times I read it, I always cried when Beth died…and when Laurie married Amy because he was supposed to marry Jo!
I didn’t outgrow that. Ask any of my former students. I’m sure all of them can remember me getting teary over at least one read aloud. How can you not cry with Wilbur when Charlotte dies in Charlotte’s Web or with Marty when he has to give Shiloh back to Judd Travers? And I refused to read Where the Red Fern Grows out loud because I knew I’d be a blubbering mess.
Of course, that didn’t stop me from reading On My Honor, Mick Harte Was Here, and Searching for David’s Heart – all gut-wrenching stories where a main character dies. I had a sophomore pop in my office last spring to ask to borrow a copy of Searching for David’s Heart, and her comment was, “I remember you reading that chapter out loud, you know, the one where Darcy finally lets go of all she’s holding in? You were crying and so were all of us!”
Then there were the books I read before putting them on my classroom shelf: books like Good Night, Mr. Tom, Rules, and Shabanu - soul-searching stories that left images in my mind long after I had finished them.
I was just going to skim so he and I could talk more about the book, but I knew I was in for it when I read the second paragraph:
If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all. I would wish that I could walk down the street without people seeing me and then doing the look-away thing. Here’s what I think: the only reason I’m not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.
It’s been a long time since I’ve stayed up late to read a book cover to cover, but I couldn’t put this one down.
And I cried, through the WHOLE book. I cried for the kid who was different. I cried because I know that kid who acts nice around grownups but is a real jerk when it’s just a group of kids. I cried for the kid who said unkind things he didn’t mean so that he didn’t become the target. I cried for the older sister who always took second place to the little brother who needed her parents ‘more’.
But most of all, I cried because C told me, “This is the first book I’ve ever read where I can totally relate to the main character.”
Not because his comment made me sad but because I know he understands what happens when you read a good book. It can make you laugh or cry. It can make you angry or happy. It can make you question things you’ve never questioned before. But, no matter what, in the end it leaves an indelible mark on your soul, and you are never quite the same.