Last year I challenged myself to read 50 books. I did and found that it’s possible and rewarding. I read a variety of books: collections of short stories, fantasy, volumes about how to become a better and more effective educator. I read short books, long books, and even managed to finish the colossal monstrosity that is Atlas Shrugged. On December 31, 2014, with a few hours to go, I finished my book challenge and breathed a giant sigh of relief. That night, I decided to up my game: next year 75 books.

A friend asked why I read so much and it’s taken three weeks to consider the answer. Reading is integral to my identity. Learning about the ways in which the world around me views and is viewed by others through true and fictitious stories helps me shape and reshape exactly who I am. I’ll read pretty much anything.

So far this year, I’ve learned about the science of the brain, the reasons behind our decisions, why forgiveness should be a central part of my life, and how to get away with faking my death.Tha last one is a stretch, but reading about and hearing the stories of how and why the world works the way it does, what motivates us to behave the ways that we do, and understanding the histories behind our everyday choices and life changing decisions makes the work of living a full life a little more manageable every day.

Reading is a transformative tool. It’s helped me become a better writer, listener, and person. As a teacher, having the ability to connect to students through stories they bring to the classroom has helped me reach even those I thought would keep their strongest barriers in place. Breaking through their barriers as well as my own is an ongoing process. Through the National Writing Project, I’ve figured out how stories and challenges to my own way of being allow me to admit my flaws, celebrate my successes, and inspire my students to do the same. 75 books is a good challenge, but it is mostly a means to the end of a much larger learning and teaching challenge that I will continue writing about through the year.

Kerri Valesey
2014 Teacher Consultant

One thought on “Why I Read”

  1. Kerri,
    Great post. I understand how reading is “integral to your identity.” Me too. Strangely, that identity gets nudged (or led or jarred) sometimes by the things I read. I wonder sometimes if I am the same reader for every genre. I’m reading a book of poems by Brenda Shaughnessy, *Our Andromeda,* and it’s blowing my mind.

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