Slice of Life: A Literary Letter

Dear Rooms 501 and 601,

I knew our first day back after the Thanksgiving break was going to be challenging. Teachers looked groggy. One even said, “How many days till Christmas break.” You had to be feeling this too.

I had plans. Big ideas. I was ready to hit the ground running with all kinds of wonderful.

Then you walked in.

I thought that the library would be packed with you all shopping for books.

I was wrong.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit heartbroken.

I sent home new books. I thought you were excited about them. What happened?

Over half of you in Room 501 said you didn’t have time.

I set my sadness/borderline despair aside and asked, “What makes you want to read?”

Some of your answers didn’t surprise me.

Books with humor, action, mystery, drama

Books that have the impossible.

Long books with short chapters. (Cool thought! Me too,)

Books that are filled with sadness.

I asked you about books you love.

Smile, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, Tides of War, The Crossover, Crenshaw, Lost in the Sun, Runaway Twin, The Story of Diva and Flea, Home of the Brave, Fish in a Tree

Some of you were specific.

I like the book called Anne of Green Gables because she’s brave and the imagination is making me heartful of feelings. So I love reading books like these.

I like adventure but what makes it difficult is that the words are hard to pronounce and it’s so intense that I forget waht happens in the story.

I am honored to hear your thoughts. They give me hope and purpose.

I asked why so many chose not to read over the break.  Was it because of the books? What J said may be close to the truth for many of you.

I think we chose books that were just right, we just have other things that take our attention away.

I know some read at home over the last week. Some always read. But many didn’t.  Thank you for your honesty. That’s how we will get better. We need to work together to figure it out.

I learned just right books and choice aren’t enough when you walk out the classroom door. There needs to be more. Something else. But what? More accountability? (you didn’t have partners to respond to) More parent involvement? (a letter, a phone call)

You moved on to your next class, and these questions stayed with me as Room 601 walked in. 

I was ready. My plans were adjusted.

“Ok, guys!” I said. “Pull out your books. Put the books you’ve finished in one pile. The books you’re still reading in another pile.”

I looked around. Most of you had the finished pile stacked high.


“When can we shop for books?” K asked.

I looked over at D. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan was sitting on her desk. “That’s one thick book. Did you finish it?”

Well it took a few days. But I just went outside on my porch. No one is there. It’s quiet and I can read.

D’s comment got lots of you talking:

I read in the morning, play video games at night.

I read at bedtime.

I read when my parents are cooking.

I read when I get bored. I got bored a lot this break.

I set goals for myself.

I know some of you in room 601 didn’t read. Some of you don’t read when you walk out the classroom door. But many do. And we need to learn from this.

I learned readers find a time and a place to read every day. Readers make plans and goals for reading.

I learned that those who read outside of school, read with a plan they made. In a place they chose.  No one said my mom made me. No one turned in a reading log or got a coupon as a result of reading at home.

I’m happy for those of you who have found your reading life outside of school. You are on your way. Some need some extra support. You haven’t discovered that place and time that fits you, yet. We need to work on that.

See you tomorrow,

Mrs. Harmatz

P.S. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Tuesday Slice of Life. Find more slices here.