a chance to win 19 books plus a ton of swag (that's goodies, for those of you who are young enough to use the word "swag" differently than us old folks.)
And this isn't just a chance to win cool prizes--it's also a great idea for a blog entry. So, without further ado, I'll have a go at deciding:
What book am I MOST grateful for?
One book? Really? That's all?
Ok, fine, I'll pick one. But I will be posting separately, as November rolls along and Thanksgiving approaches, about my many, many runners-up.
Honestly, at this moment the book I am most grateful for is The Hunger Games. Before The Hunger Games, I had a handful of successes as an English teacher who secretly longed to be a librarian. A couple students even told me that books I handed them were the first books they have ever read all the way through on their own. And that felt great (I mean, and also bummed me out, but on the balance, it felt pretty good.)
Then I read The Hunger Games and promptly designed a trimester-long English class around it*. Suddenly, everything changed. My students who used to ignore my every word--well, they kept ignoring my every word, except that now it was because they were too engrossed in Katniss and Rue's alliance or Peeta's injury to care what I was going on about. All five copies of Catching Fire that I bought for my classroom were snapped up as soon as I brought them in, and several were lost in perpetuity as students passed them around from person to person without bothering to check them in first. You might think that the students would dash through the series and then resign from reading forever--but that's not what happened. This is what happened:
"Mrs. S--what else do you have that's like The Hunger Games?"
"Hey, do you have any other books that are exciting like that?"
"What should I read next? I need a book."
The Hunger Games started conversations about reading, between me and my students, and more importantly, among my students as a group. Kids who had nothing in common were suddenly swapping news about the movie and debating the casting choices, or recommending books to each other. These conversations are my single favorite part of being a teacher, and for that, I have to send a huge wave of gratitude to Suzanne Collins for writing The Hunger Games.
*Anthropological footnote: when I put that class, Dystopian Lit, on the
schedule for the first time in December 2010, I was flooded with
students coming up to me in the halls asking me what "that d-word"
meant. When I taught it again starting in March 2011, it seemed that
many, many more of my students were familiar with the genre.