I am a book purist, a “one-book-at-a-time” type of reader. I like to devour a story, from start to finish, without mingling in other books simultaneously.
However, this month I have found myself buried in a sea of books, reading 6 novels and “involved” with two more. Caught between the pages of a plethora of titles has left me feeling somewhat scattered, and yet also invigorated.
In Guatemala, a common saying is “hay que aprovechar,” which translates to one must take advantage of a situation. The Guatemalan school year ends in late October and begins in mid January. The school calendar was originally designed to accommodate the coffee harvest and allow a break in the school year for children to participate in the cutting of coffee beans. While child labor continues to exist in many Central American countries, fewer youth are recruited during the non-school months to work in the fields today.
As a result, la Puerta Abierta “aprovecha” the months of November and December to engage with reading circles throughout the community of Santiago Atitlan and beyond. Currently we have 3 groups dedicated to older elementary school students, two groups dedicated to jr. high level students and three adult reading groups.
In addition, I always have a book for myself at my bedside table and a chapter book that I read at night with my two daughters.
Why is the feat of reading 6 books invigorating? The act of loosing myself in multiple novels in truth is ambitious and somewhat overwhelming. However, what sharing books with numerous children, teens, and adults represents in wildly exciting. Rural Guatemala has one of the highest illiteracy rates in Central and South America. Books are hard to come by, and often too expensive for families to purchase. Hence a culture of readers is just beginning to emerge. Discussing The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate with a group of engaged 4th graders who are receiving their first novel is gratifying. Sitting in a circle with 10 teachers who are reading Before we were Free by Julia Alvarez and pondering questions of political freedom in a group setting is deeply rewarding.
While the “vacation” months don’t necessarily feel like holiday as I meet with a variety of reading groups, I truly wouldn’t trade “reading season” for a month rest—that is, unless I could take my reading circles with me to a glorious beach in Mexico where we could discuss novels from our hammocks and sip cold coconut water. Until then, meeting in our school, delving into books, and creating meaningful connections with literature will be just fine.
The Reading Season Book List
- The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate, 4th grade reading circle
- Esperanza Rising, Pam Munoz Ryan, 5th grade reading circle
- The Only Road, Alexandra Diaz, 6th grade reading circle
- Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief, Rick Riordon, jr. high reading circle
- Before we were Free, Julia Alvarez, adult reading circle
- Like a Fish in a Tree, Lynda Mulally Hunt, adult reading circle
- Like Water For Chocolate, Laura Esquivel, adult reading circle
What I am reading just for me:
The Beautiful things that Heaven Bears, Dinaw Mengestu
What I am reading with my daughters E (12 years old) and C (9 years old):
Pax, Sara Pennypacker