May 20, 2010

What's the Most Useful Book You've Ever Read?

That's this week's Booking Through Thursday.

At first I was tempted to be snarky (I know, what's new with that?) and go with the phone book.  No one really uses them anymore but I definitely got quite a bit of use out of them back in the day.  Before the internets, they had the best collection of information.  Everything from maps to seating charts for theaters to school district information and more.  You could use them to show feats of strength, get a higher seat for shorties, hold down papers needing glue to dry and provide hours of entertainment for crank calls.

But you didn't really read the phone book, now did you?

I'm not one for self help or business books so none of that works for me.  I'm not religious and while I've found some useful things to ponder in various ethical writings, I'm thinking the questioner is referring to more practical matters.

I'm a teacher first and foremost and while Stephen Krashen's The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research isn't the book that made me want to be a teacher (that would have been this depressing Jonathan Kozol book), it's the first professional reading I did that really hit me.  It's useful in that it covers a whole lot of research that I've subsequently investigated that backs up his simple but powerful thesis that reading begets reading.  Not skills, not sticky notes, not workbooks.  Reading.  Finding interesting books that kids want to read makes them want to read more and by reading more they read better and hence enjoy reading.  This book, along with things I learned about literature circles and the magic of reading aloud are what that led me to be the teacher I am today.  I've told this story many times, but here it is again: the power of reading.

It's a slim book packed with great anecdotes about what works in reading, backed up by much research.  If I could make sure all teachers and librarians and administrators read one book, it would be this one.  (For parents, I'd probably go with The Read-Aloud Handbook, which also refers to Krashen).

This  book made me a better teacher.  What's more useful than that?