I was in a Zoom meeting with a few colleagues when the topic of school book orders came up. Someone shared that they needed to get online and order their daughter’s selections before it was too late. I instantly recalled leafing through the thin paper pamphlet years ago, circling all the books I wanted, then going home and having to winnow my choices so the dollar amount matched the money my parents had offered to pay. Sometimes it was the 99-cent special, other times it was a pack of three or four, but even if I didn’t have a book of my own on the way, I excitedly awaited the arrival of the red-and-white box in our classroom.
When I shared this memory with my colleagues, a few of them laughed, and I was surprised to discover that not everyone shared my sentiment. How could they not feel the same wave of happiness that I did when remembering school book orders?
That got me to thinking about what had caused my excitement. Why had I been so happy about the arrival of a few paperback books while other people were completely apathetic? I could understand if it was the difference between being able to purchase and not being able to. But that was not the case here. They said they had ordered every once in awhile but never really cared. Didn’t care? How could their experience be so different from mine?
Further investigation unearthed the fact that when it came to book orders, it all boiled down to the teacher’s blessing and enthusiasm. I remember my teacher going through the book order pamphlet, highlighting books we might want to read, and giving us a sampling when she could. It’s similar to going to a new restaurant and asking the waiter what people like or if they have any specials they are known for, and he highlights a few from the menu.
That is the kind of sampling my teacher used to do. She had a contagious enthusiasm about each book she blessed that made us want to read them, whether they were from the classroom library or school library, or would one day be our own. It was wonderful, and to this day, thinking about it makes me happy.
It is with a sense of awe and responsibility that we should carefully regard the influence of our own enthusiasm on students. What we love, they will often love. Do we thrill at the magnificent way authors put words to a page, and then lead children to try it out in their own writing? Do we delight in how fun it is to use manipulatives to solve complex math problems? Do we treat books as if they were old friends and new ones yet to be discovered? That is what my teacher did for me. So much so that I just ordered a stack of books for school. And guess what came in the bottom of the box? Next month’s order form. What should I get?
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