I am the Yeoman
I spent my early school days diagraming sentences and completing phonics worksheets under the gaze of Sister Mary. My class read in unison as she pointed at the words with a long, wooden stick. Reading was hard, boring, and often sweaty. However, my sanity remained because of stories. Not necessarily written stories, not the stories stabbed with a wooden stick, but just stories. Movies, cartoons, plays… Pictures. Ah, the beauty of visuals. My imagination also supported reading and writing. Drawing and playing with toys sharpened my literary senses. Rainy afternoon character sketches, complete with full diagrams of gear, powers, and even back-stories, helped me dig deep into character development. Epic basement battles between He-Man and Superman never really ended until the innocent Strawberry Shortcake offered per poison fruit. He-man was a sucker for cute redheads. This kind of play organically embedded the ability to read and write without actually reading and writing. I just wasn’t ready. My imagination surpassed “skill” at an early age and books couldn’t compete with my mind’s eye.
It took a while for my teachers to match a book to my creative appetite, but it finally happened in high school. Reading grabbed me when I read The Canterbury Tales. You start discussing knights, and you got me. I’m in. I pulled the character of The Yeoman. I knew nothing about this character, but when I started my research, I realized I hit the jackpot. Daggers, bows, and swords? Yup, you got me.
After completing the book, we all dressed as our characters to celebrate. I rushed in with my bow and arrow to show all of my friends. They gathered around me and inspected the grain-streaked wood, they plucked the twine and smoothed the feathers on the arrow. I felt brave. I felt good. I felt like I found a bit of myself in this book and holding a medieval weapon in the middle of a classroom proved it.
Of course I had to pose by fixing an arrow to the bow. And of course it wouldn’t look real unless I pulled back. I really didn’t mean to let go, but it made the day even better. The arrow had a blunted tip, but it still stuck in the old, plaster wall of my homeroom. Jaws dropped. We all looked at each other and laughed hysterically. I ran up to the wall, extracted the arrow, and stuck a piece of gum in the hole. I am The Yeoman.
Open a World of Possible
I just finished reading a book about dreaming, saved lives, and hope. It’s a book of treasure found between two covers. It’s a book about humanity. Open A World of Possible is Scholastic’s newest offering in support of independent, joyful reading. In the pages you won’t find lessons, standards, or assessments. Instead, you’ll find essays and memoirs of how reading affected the lives of educators around the world. You’ll find love. And in the words of Stevie Wonder, “You can feel it all over.”
Nancie Atwell’s love of Beezus.
Penny Kittle's fake eye exam: she wanted glasses like Harriet the Spy.
Kelly Gallagher’s obsession with Aquaman.
Jon Scieszka’s three-year-old mind blown away by a carrot?
Jimmy Santiago Baca's reading in jail even after the gangs banned it.
Carol Jago's insisting on stopping at the library while her mother was in labor–– in the car!
It’s all love, baby.
Plant a Seed
Right now education is a “have to” world. I have to give this test. I have to read this book. I have to write this essay. I know. I’m living it too. We all work in some sort of restricted environment ––some more than others. But I do beg of you to make time for a read aloud, give your students ten minutes a day to explore books, or just discuss the books you loved as a child. There are many great quotes in this book, but Shirley Brice Heath just nails it for me:
"Of special interest to me was the matter of how even small seeds of reading at some point in early life can sprout later in life and often have the staying power of the toughest plants."
The tiniest bit of time devoted to the joyful interaction with books is worth it. It doesn’t take long to put a seed in the ground.
The Book is Free!!
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Disclaimer: I don't work or consult for Scholastic, but I do love this book.
This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.