How to Cope…(Due 4/19)

“Sometimes fiction is a way of coping with the poison of the world in a way that lets us survive it.”—Neil Gaiman

It wasn’t until I was older that I truly understood the personal meaning behind this quote from Neil Gaiman’s acceptance speech for the Newbery Medal.  I can say that my childhood wasn’t terrible.  In fact, looking back and comparing to others, I had it good.  I had supportive parents.  I always made the ball teams.  I always earned the A’s and B’s.  I never quarreled with friends.  Life sure was perfect, when I was little.  It wasn’t until I turned 25 until I truly knew what it was like to feel lost.

My parents’ seemingly (un)perfect marriage had started to tumble.  My mom left our family, in search of herself, and I felt lost an abandoned for the first time in my life.  I had no one to turn to for advice, because no one really knew what it felt like.  I thought I had played the parts right, done my “job” as the “good kid” and it all literally blew up in my face, and all in the one day that she left.  I turned to friends for help, but felt a nuisance to bother them with such a complex and troublesome problem.  I tried talking to family, but I felt pushed and pulled from one side to the other.  I finally found solace in one thing: reading.  I can’t always say that I’ve enjoyed reading.  It was fun, but growing up, I’d be more apt to flip on the TV or boot up the computer to entertain myself.  Once my family began to re-form to what it is now, being on a computer didn’t erase the pain.  I’d find myself on Facebook, looking at pictures of “happy” families, wishing mine weren’t so confusing.  Flipping on the TV didn’t make me feel any better.  There, I’d see shows that I’d watch with my mom, and feel angered that she weren’t with me, sharing the laughs of The Golden Girls.  I found that the only therapy was to read.  I could put my nose in a book, and escape.  I could escape the words I heard my parents say to me about each other.  I could escape the problems that I had dealing with my mother’s missing link to her family, and the words that I wanted to share with her, but couldn’t place.  I escaped the day-in and day-out nightmare of “what has happened to my family?”  I picked up a series of books called Pretty Little Liars by Sara Sheppard, and literally finished the series in a matter of weeks.  Next, I focused on kids’ books.  Of course I read for my required readings in graduate school, but moved on to other genres that I’d never picked up before.  I read Scat by Carl Hiaassen, The Giver (again) by Lois Lowery, Rule  by Cynthia Lord and other titles that I can’t put my finger on.  It was like I could open a book, a work of fiction, and lose myself, lose my problems.  When I was so angry, I could cope, by using fiction.  When I was melancholy, I used fiction to help me gain my happiness again.  When I was feeling good, fiction kept me going.

So now, as a 27 year old adult in a Reading Education program, I’ve felt that I’ve taken away many things that I can provide for my students.  I know some tricks to teaching kids how to pick a novel.  I can guide a student through a word study.  I can convince kids to work together to discussion literature.  I can make suggestions for students who want to read a certain type of genre.  But now, after truly appreciating the magic of getting into fiction, I can survive the world.  I can be what I want to be, and I can make it.  I can provide my students with this authentic feeling through my instruction of literature, with hopes that one day, when they are having a tough time, no matter what age, they too, may survive.

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  1. Wow Renee! Thank you for sharing how reading helped you through this tough time with your family! I think that you will be able to share part of this experience by recommending books for your students and you have a connection with some students that you didn’t have before. I am amazed at how many ways reading can change, improve and enhance our lives! Thanks again for sharing! Elizabeth A

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 1 month ago

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