I was a non-fiction kid. Encyclopedias and Time-Life books were my favorite. I knew how babies were born and what fungus looked like magnified x4000 before I had my first Golden Book at the grocery check-out. At four my mother bought me a three-inch thick animal encyclopedia that I carried with me everywhere. I still have it and hope to see the marsupials in Madagascar up close some day.
Then kindergarten introduced me to Dr. Seuss’ dog party. THAT page was intriguing and I could hear the music each time I turned to that page. Spending much time in trees as a kid, I really didn’t come down much to read fiction other than Dr. Seuss and a few Judy Blume books. My head was mostly in non-fiction because I had questions to answer.
I was diverted when I went off to college and met Dr. Greta Lipson at the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s College of Education. Kiddie Lit was mandatory and she was perfect for the job. Her big eyes came alive and her passion engulfed you. Nobody left her class without falling madly in love with children’s literature.
With the inspiration came the relationship. She taught. I learned. Her enthusiasm kept me in the game. This worked well years later during my days as a preschool and first grade teacher. I spent more than I had on books for the children, loving my time with them and the stories. Then my babies came and books were part of every day. I was trying to inspire them as Greta did me.
On my KiddieLit final exam (do they still have “blue books”?) were the words I read in my head last night, 24 years later:
“I recognize in you a panache, a spark, that I hope you never lose.
It makes you a joy to be around.”
Those words, in the context of our relationship, have carried me for decades now. First Greta inspired me. Now she is part of the voice in my head, pushing me through tough decisions and difficult situations. That panache has carried me far. I am lucky to be surrounded by those who love that in me on days when the downside is revealed.
Non Fiction goes to my core, but I learned to love stories thanks to Greta.
- What authentic feedback can you give individual students to encourage them?
- Are you inspiring?
- Is the relationship there?
These three bullets are pivotal to learning that lasts a lifetime. They do take pieces of you with them and carry them forever if you make an impression.