a quote from my favorite author

“The most solid advice, though, for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”

-William Saroyan, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Yesterday was a teacher torture day institute day in my district.  Needless to say I have been clouded by a fog of moodiness a barrage of professional thoughts ever since.  Assessment has been on my mind.  It is an area in which I suck do not feel confident, but mostly because I just can’t find a model to follow that fits the current mandates of my district and feels right (i.e. is good for kids). 

I am down about not being Nancie Atwell able to figure it out myself.  I am surrounded by buffoons leaders who say things like, “If we knew how to roll out the common core standards, we would be earning our enormous paychecks traveling the country, making an even larger sum of money consulting with other school districts.”

In an effort to save myself from a glorious celebration of the problem downward spiral of toxicity, I decided to find something that makes me feel like I don’t suck to celebrate. 

So, my slice today is a collection of lines from my 8th graders’ letters to authors for the Letters About Literature contest.  If you have never participated, check it out and start planning for next year.  It is worth it!

It is my belief that these lines speak volumes more than any numbers in a gradebook. 

Enjoy my collection. I know there are lot of lines.  Don't feel like you need to read them all!  There is something so delicious about the sheer volume of readerly goodness that I just couldn't leave any out.
“From the first sentence to the last, I was ripped out of my own reality and brought into Jessica’s.”
-from a letter to Wendelin Van Draanen regarding The Running Dream

“It surprised me how much bad can be contained in a great piece of literature.”
-from a letter to Markus Zusak regarding The Book Thief

“This book seemed to rekindle my love for reading.”
-from a letter to John Steinbeck regarding Of Mice and Men

“You, John Green, caused me for the first time in my life to devour words on the page rather than munch.”
-from a letter to John Green regarding Paper Towns

“When I read your book, it wasn’t like I was reading it; it was like I was living it.”
-from a letter to Laurie Halse Anderson regarding Speak

“The first time I read this book it was just another story about another person, but now, in eighth grade, I have gotten a deeper meaning out of it.
-from a letter to Kathleen Krull regarding Wilma, Unlimited

“My Hagrid was your book telling me to stay strong.”
-from a letter to J.K. Rowling regarding Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

“After reading your series, I had the world stop for me and I thought deeply about what would happen to Seth, Kady, and Justin.”
-from a letter to Chris Wooding regarding Malice

“Your book opened my mind to a world I never knew about.”
-from a letter to H.R. Demalie regarding Behind Enemy Lines

“This book taught me a lot and I will keep it with me for my whole life.”
-from a letter to ‘Anonymous’ regarding Go Ask Alice

“Now I know what it’s like to be inside a bullied child’s mind.”
-from a letter to Jay Asher regarding 13 Reasons Why

“Now that I’ve read your book, when I walk down the street I will look at people differently.  I won’t just look at their outside.  To know what is within is the key.”
-from a letter to Scott Westerfield regarding Uglies

“This book is a whole different experience of reading; it made me like reading more than I ever had before.  It even made me rather read instead of playing video games.”
-from a letter to Lois Lowry regarding The Giver

“Your book has stimulated me to be the person who sits with the kid who’s eating lunch by himself.  Your book has inspired me to talk to the kid who is sitting alone with everyone else just laughing at him or her, and I thank you for that.”
-from a letter to John Boyne regarding The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

“I know I’ve hurt people before, but I never really thought about it until your book.”
-from a letter to Jay Asher regarding 13 Reasons Why

“Every day I waited for someone to just ask me, ‘What’s wrong?’  The person who made me stop waiting for that question was you.” 
-from a letter to Jay Asher regarding 13 Reasons Why

“You saved me from myself and you made a spark appear in the darkness.”
-from a letter to Jay Asher regarding 13 Reasons Why

“Before I read your book, I never really paid attention to disabled people.”
-from a letter to Sharon M. Draper regarding Out of My Mind

“It was a difficult time for me and reading your book made me see that even though Phoebe was a fictional character, I could relate to her.”
-from a letter to Paula Danziger regarding Divorce Express

“Your book has helped me transfer to a new school and be able to topple new challenges that were thrown in my way.”
-from a letter to Orson Scott Card regarding Ender’s Game

“I have read a lot of ‘scary’ books, but most never give me the thrill that yours gives me.”
-from a letter to Alexander Gordon Smith regarding Lockdown

“Your book made me think about people in the world differently, how everything happens for a reason, and if certain things need to happen in our lives, to follow the journey, see where it takes you, and enjoy it.”
-from a letter to Wendy Mass regarding Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

“Your book brought out the little child in me, before it’s too late, which feels really good.”
-from a letter to J.K. Rowling regarding Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

“I was trapped in my own internal prison, alone to wonder how I could discover a spark to ignite my life.  Then I found your book, The Maze Runner and for the first time in a very long time, I felt alive.”
-from a letter to James Dashner regarding The Maze Runner

“Reading your book made me realize that I shouldn’t stereotype people.”
-from a letter to Sarah Dessen regarding Someone Like You
“Thank you for opening up my mind and making me realize that everyone has a reason for acting certain ways towards me and others.”
-from a letter to Wendy Mass regarding Leap Day

“If I got paid for reading this book, I would become rich.”
-from a letter to Brian Selznick regarding The Invention of Hugo Cabret

“When I finished this book, I bragged about it to my class and friends.  People don’t usually see me reading, so people were surprised.”
-from a letter to Lisa Schroeder regarding I Heart You, You Haunt Me

“Now that I’ve read your book I really try not to take things for granted.”
-from a letter to Sharon M. Draper regarding Out of My Mind

“If I hadn’t read your book, I would have never had the guts to enter a piano competition and win second place.”
-from a letter to Justin Bieber regarding Steps to Forever

“When I read your book it made me realize that books are not only for geeks, they’re also for people like me.”
-from a letter to Wendelin Van Draanen regarding Flipped

“Your book Knucklehead was the first book I ever liked and enjoyed.”
-from a letter to Jon Scieszka regarding Knucklehead

“Your book was interesting and made me think how those who surround me might be hiding inside themselves.”
-from a letter to Matt De La Pena regarding Ball Don’t Lie

“Your book inspired me to never quit fighting for what I believe in.”
-from a letter to Uri Orlev regarding Run Boy, Run

“Once I read one of your books, I really wanted to read really slowly so I could keep reading the same book you wrote.”
-from a letter to Mike Lupica regarding Heat

“You made me appreciate the life I have and you changed the way I think about my uncle.”
-from a letter to Terry Trueman regarding Stuck in Neutral

“If I hadn’t read your book, I would’ve lost my best friend.”
-from a letter to Patricia Reilly Giff regarding Pictures of Hollis Woods

“Until I read your book, I never realized just listening to someone can change so much.”
-from a letter to S.E. Hinton regarding The Outsiders
“Reading your book made me think growing up is not that bad at times.”
-from a letter to Jenny Han regarding Shug

Drive By taught me a lot of things about gangs, family, and life.  It was a book I couldn’t put down.  It was that good.”
-from a letter to Lynne Ewing regarding Drive By

“I felt just like Max when one of my friends turned against me.  I felt hunted and trapped.”
-from a letter to James Patterson regarding Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment

“Your book helped me realize that being perfect is only a state of mind.”
-from a letter to Alex Flinn regarding Beastly

“I enjoyed your book because it felt so real.  It seemed like it could happen.  It felt like it was a real story.”
-from a letter to Lynne Ewing regarding Drive By

“When I read your book, something clicked.  I was reading a book and I understood it.”
-from a letter to Neal Shusterman regarding Unwind

“Before I read your book series, I didn’t like reading at all.  Now I know that I like reading your books and some others too.”
-from a letter to Jeff Kinney regarding Diary of a Wimpy Kid

“This book did more than just make me understand books; it truly made me want to read.  After reading your book I started going to libraries and trying to find books to read.  I started reading for to enjoy myself, not just for schoolwork.”
-from a letter to Brian Selznick regarding The Invention of Hugo Cabret

“If I didn’t read this book, I would still not know that there are some books that you can be inside of instead of just watching it in your brain.”
-from a letter to Kekla Magoon regarding Camo Girl


  1. I love you post!!! Your voice is so real and true. :)
    One of my favorite lines from your students: I realized that books were not just for geeks, but also for people like me.
    The person who responded about the Boy in the Striped PJ, being inspired to sit by those who are not liked, bravo!
    I'm inspired. MaryHelen

  2. Your students' words speak so highly of the teaching they have experienced. These are life changing statements and you shared them with us. Thank you!!
    I love your cross out in your beginning. :)

  3. Ah, Christy--we should so teach together. I have the same problem when it comes to assessment. Some of the things I know about students, some of the things I know they have learned, just can't be assessed--especially on a paper and pencil test.

    As far as Letters About Literature, I love it. Some of things my students have written really surprise me...others make me cry. How do you put that in a gradebook?

  4. First, I must read "13 Reasons Why."
    Second, than you for the website - my kids would love to write to the authors of the books they love.
    Third, thank you for including that last quote - so powerful!

  5. We have several teachers who do the letters for literature-very wonderful program. It seems that you just gave yourself some very good medicine, the lines above, & of course we would read each one! They were clearly from the heart, showed terrific connections to life and self, and used good clear language that showed such sincerity. Congratulations to your students; I wish they could all win the prize. But, by learning from you, I guess they're winners after all, right?

  6. They talk about like books as they do because they have a teacher who talks about books like you do. Thanks for sharing with us. I loved the voice in the beginning of your slice that you established by using strike through.

    And @Tara -- move 13 Reasons Why to the VERY TOP of your book stack! :)

  7. Awesome post...I remember teacher work days and how totally stupid there were...I love the letters...that is an amazing thing that you did...

  8. I am feeling your torment and so good that you can balance the torment with the power of your students :)

  9. Christy, you are doing so many things right. This is amazing! Love your voice in the beginning as well. Many of us struggle with those same thoughts about moving beyond the grades. I love working with elementary kids, but sharing your students thoughts gives me reason alone to wish for something different, for something more. Wow -- so impressed with their thinking! Lots of great books read too! Three cheers for you and your kids -- hip hip hurray!

  10. The crossing out of words conveys the frustration. And you are right, the lines below speak volumes. There is plenty of evidence of reading and thinking and about being human.

  11. Wow... I love this. Some of my favorite student comments were that it brought out the kid before it was too late and if they got paid for reading Hugo, they would be rich. These students really found their voice and love for words.

  12. Loved your words about torture day, and couldn't agree more. It's one of the blessings of being retired now!
    And I read all the excerpts from the student letters. Wow!
    They're written with as much heart as the books they read.

  13. First off, I love your words to start the post. The cross-offs are hilarious! Large salaried people don't always (ever) have the greatest ideas. Its like they forgot what it's like to be a worker.

    Second, your students' words are amazing. Wow! They are so inspirational. Congrats on being the excellent teacher to get these words/thoughts out of your students.