I think the most important thing we can do is learn from something. A mistake, a joyous occasion, and even a book. We can learn from all of these things without even realizing it; sometimes it’s a conscious decision, and sometimes it is not. Every day is a new opportunity to learn, and I love that. I love that something, like a book, can be such a great opportunity to learn lessons without even thinking about it.
As we move towards the end of our Independent Learning Projects, I was reminded of this thought during the week. Books that are familiar are wonderful, and I think that we all have those books. You know, the ones that we can fall back on and binge read at any point? (Twilight or the Divergent Series… Just sayin’.) Those books are great. Really. I will guiltily dig into my old, trusty reads any day of the week. But new books that push us to think harder and learn new things? Those are spectacular windows that we must look through.
Books can serve as windows into other worlds or lives that we’ve never lived. Naturally, fantasy novels come to mind when thinking of this type of a book. But, what about books that are realistic, just maybe not necessarily for you? This week I read Gabi, A Girl in Pieces. It was something that I had never read before. This novel follows Gabi, a senior in high school balancing a full plate of life’s messy hurdles. From a drug addict father who is MIA most of the time to boy issues and college planning, Gabi’s senior year is one to remember. Toss in two best friends with challenges of their own and Gabi finds herself in a turning point in life. Readers can follow her through her journal entries to see what it’s truly like to walk a year in Gabi’s shoes.
This book was a window for me. I did not grow up in California, and I was not raised in a traditional Mexican-American household. Speaking Spanish is not something that I do on a regular basis (although that would be awesome). I did not struggle to fit into my neighborhood due to my skin tone. My father is not addicted to drugs and my best friends and I did not go through the same issues that Gabi faced. What I’m trying to get at here is that my senior year of high school looked completely different than Gabi’s did. But you know what? I learned so much from reading her story. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes changes your perspective. It makes you feel their pain along with their joy. I laughed with Gabi. I smiled when she got accepted into her dream school. Tears welled up in my eyes as she shared her personal life stories through her poetry. I related on a certain scale, because I was a senior in high school once and it truly did feel like the world was on my shoulders. Someday, I want my students to understand that just because someone else’s life seems completely different than yours doesn’t mean that you can’t relate or learn from them.
Books push us. We can learn from them. This is one of my favorite parts about reading; I always find something new. Maybe someday I’ll have a student that I feel needs to read Gabi’s story. It’s comforting to know that I’ll be able to share this with them. Getting out of your comfort zone is important. Finding your identity (and loving it) is important. Therefore, this book is important.