Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"There must be something in books..."

"There must be something in books, things we can't imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there.  You don't stay for nothing."  - Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Earlier this morning, Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles passed away in Los Angeles at 91.  Aside from his obvious significance as the author of one of the classic American novels, Bradbury's work was of particular importance to me and my class this year.

A few weeks ago, our class completed a unit of short stories.  I had several short stories that had been used before by other teachers, but I decided that I really wanted to explore some stories by more famous authors and I felt my students were up to the challenge.  By pure coincidence, I came across Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder, the famous cautionary tale about the butterfly effect.  Something about the story grabbed my attention and I just had a feeling that the kids would like it.

As we read through the first few pages, the kids were silent.  We had to stop a page or two before the ending and the kids lost it...

We can't stop!  It's almost over!  I need to find out what happens!

I wish this wasn't a short story - I wish it was a whole book!

They finished the story at home and were buzzing the next day talking about what they had read.  We have read several great books this year, but this was the most enthusiastic response by far.  In class, students then wrote their own short stories about traveling back in time, changing one tiny detail, and how it affected the future.  The stories that they created were awesome.

Because they enjoyed the story so much, I told them about the author and that his most famous book was called Fahrenheit 451.  I told them that they were probably a little too young for it now, but that many students read it in high school literature classes.  Just as they were visibly excited in anticipation of Laurie Halse Anderson's sequel to Forge coming in the fall, they were actually looking forward to a future literary experience.  As an avid reader and educator, there is nothing more gratifying than seeing pure "book joy" in a student's eyes.

Whether or not you or your students have or will connect with a Bradbury story the way that we did in our little class, the message about literature is clear.  No matter which book or story reaches you the way this one did for us, "there must be something in books..."


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