Roxanne recommends three books that are even more cherished once shared.
The adage “Shared joy is a double joy'' is indeed true, especially when it comes to literature. As an English teacher in the verdant Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, I had the privilege of teaching several years worth of beautifully candid and open minded seventh grade students. Reading both fiction and nonfiction aloud had a profound impact on not only my students, but on me in appreciating the awesomeness of the written word.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave brought all of us to tears, humbling us collectively for the horrors and courageous ascension of Frederick Douglass. When my students were charged with the task of taking one scene and making a modern children’s book or graphic novel panel, profound empathy and humanity exuded every project. One student, notorious for disciplinary referrals, stands out in my memory for what the book inspired him to create, an outside the box rap lyric eloquently depicting Mr. Douglass’ plight.
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, published in 1959, was so far ahead of its time that it mesmerized my classes and me. Our class discussions as we read were intensely rich. During one of these talks as we collectively felt for Montag’s despair as his wife Mildred continued her spoiled neglect (at times, she wore seashells in her ears that piped in music and at others, cranked the volume of her large screen tv to reality shows*), a formerly disengaged student raised his hand and passionately stated, “I love this class because we talk about real things!”.
Rod Serling, creator of the TV show The Twilight Zone, allowed many of his screenplays to be printed in textbooks and thankfully so. In The Monsters are Due on Maple Street, neighbors are mystified by a power outage so all encompassing that not even their automobiles will turn on. Instead of bonding together to problem solve and offer solace, hot heads turn on each other, accusing each other for causing the problem. My students, who cherished reading parts in this teleplay, would stop aghast and comment on how appalling the adults’ behavior was. In the past few years of political strife, I’ve hoped my former students, adults themselves now, remember and hold fast to Serling’s cautionary tale.