Back in the old days, teachers cautioned pupils to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. For junior high kids, that pretty much left out do no evil. But with a good book in front of them, the result can be fewer shenanigans, especially if they can choose the book.
McAdams Junior High in Dickinson is beginning a new program called Silent Sustained Reading periods. SSR is a short period each day dedicated to reading. Students can read anything they want and, at times, even conduct a class reading. The purpose is to get the student to read anything.
Long ago, when I was the age many of these students are now, and I finally admitted to liking girls, I was smitten with a girl named Lisa. At 11 years old, I was never an avid reader. My culture and outlook on the world came from TV shows such as “The Six Million Dollar Man” or “Three’s Company.”
One day, to gain a little pity, I explained I was facing a deadline for a nonfiction book report. She seemed moved as I put on my best sullen, desperate mask and talked her into letting me borrow the same book she had, and her copy of her book report. I know … and I am a teacher, right?
In the process of copying her work, but not so well to arouse the suspicions of our teacher, Ms. Stallings, I began to question some of Lisa’s observations about the plot. For one, according to her report, the ship was brand new and it sunk on its maiden voyage? “No way!”
I read on thumbing through the book, hoping to get something from the pictures.
“OK, who was the idiot that didn’t put enough lifeboats on a ship like that? There is no way THAT many people died.”
I never actually turned in my book report on Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember.” Instead I ended up reading most of it in class.
As the obsession grew into high school, librarians Rhea Johnson, Linda Lanier and Dot Hill kept me supplied with material from all across the country as I continued to study the Titanic long before the Titanic was cool. But something happened along the way — I became an incredible reader and a better researcher.
I think this is what the folks at McAdams Junior High are doing. By reading for just a few minutes a day, students can find what piques their interests. We really don’t care as long as it is appropriate, and it gets the student reading.
They could use the community’s help. Please look for books you no longer need: cookbooks, magazines, comic books, dime novels — anything that could capture a child’s interest. Perhaps a bookstore has some titles to donate? Don’t worry about the reading level. Let our teachers decide if we can use the books.
McAdams Junior High is at 11415 Hughes Road in Dickinson, and details on book donations can be directed to Assistant Principal Jamie Williams at 281-229-7131.
E. Donnie Thomas is a native Dickinsonian, a graduate of DISD, a teacher of U.S. History at McAdams Junior High and the founder of the Minnie Howell Good Vittles and Wood Cookery Society for at-risk youth.