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Maintaining (and Growing from) My Adult Reading Life

In my staff development work, I always begin each session with a community-building question.

Sometimes the questions are intended to help us reflect:

- What do you appreciate from our most recent round of remote running records?

- What do you miss knowing about your readers because we are in remote school?

Sometimes the questions are designed to bring lightness:

- What is the snack that you hate that you love? (Cheez-It Extra Toasty for me)

- What is your favorite emoji?

And sometimes the questions are crafted to remind us that we, too, are readers and writers:

- How are you taking care of your reading and writing life?

- What is your six-word memoir?

- What is the last book you read that you would recommend?

Many people have shared that they've lost their reading life in the pandemic. For me, it's been the opposite. My sleep (always troubled and interrupted, and now worse in these months) means I need a book at my bedside so I can fall asleep and fall back to sleep. I made a goal to read and support more BIPOC authors over the last two years. While I've read other books as well, lately I'm paying attention to how much I continue to learn and consider when I read fiction by Black and Brown writers.

This past week I've read Luster by Raven Leilani. It is the story of Edie, a Black woman in her twenties who meets Eric, a White married man living in New Jersey. Eric has an open marriage and across the book, Edie comes to live with Eric, his wife, and their adopted Black daughter Akila. The craft is exquisite and the story fierce. And over and over, it is helping me to (re)examine Whiteness. The characters are teaching me ways I falter, ways I fail, and ways to work harder.

When I step away from my work, I find that more than anything I want these months to leave a mark that is not only fear and anxiety (and exhaustion) but also the mark of my own personal growth. I am grateful for the writers whose labor can help me to do better. For me, that's always been the point of teaching reading.

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