Unbagging the Cats 1

Unbagging the Cats 1

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Voracious Val Feeds Her Brain

Years ago, when I split my work day between middle school and high school, the middle school ran a reading contest. Two students and two teachers could win lunch at a local restaurant. I believe it was tied in with Pizza Hut's Book It program. The kids were moderately excited.

The faculty was fired up. AN HOUR AWAY FROM SCHOOL FOR LUNCH! The competition was cut-throat. We carried our reading logs with us constantly. We combed the premises for suitable reads. They had to be chapter books of at least 100 pages. There were those among us who sought only the rudimentary facsimiles of literature. They rushed the English teachers. "What do you have? The shortest ones! I need one now! And make sure you save that other one for me. I'll get it after school."

The teacher across the hall filled me in every afternoon. The colleagues taking the low road. Playing dirty pool. She knew they would not last. We were in it for the long haul. Legitimately. This newfangled reading thing was not new to us. We regularly carried tomes for the down times, and discussed the merits of recent works of fiction and nonfiction. Because of the sheer number of volumes necessary to win, we, too, consulted the English teachers. But not for the shortest. For the best.

That is how I came to read The Giver. The Hatchet. Bridge to Terabithia. The Outsiders. Where the Red Fern Grows. The Yearling. Treasure Island. I didn't know what I'd been missing.

We could still count books that we'd already read, as long as we read them again. At the high school, I was elbow-deep in at-risk youngsters. That was my job at the time. And far be it from me to hold them back when they needed help with their reading assignments. They mostly needed help because when the teacher assigned them to read a chapter, they did not even crack open the book. So once various assignments were completed or being worked on, I pulled out one of their assigned books. "Go on with what you're doing. I'm going to read aloud from this book. What chapters will you be discussing today?" I wasn't exactly music to their ears. But at least they were exposed to the book's contents before being handed a quiz. We slogged through The Odyssey. The Scarlet Letter. The Red Badge of Courage. Lord of the Flies.

Just for fun, when they did not have a novel in progress, I threw in Tom Sawyer. With edited dialogue, I'm ashamed to say. Because no use tempting fate. I also brought them a couple of Gordon Korman series: Island, and Dive.

Meanwhile, back in Adult Land, Cross-Hall and I did our best to out-title each other. The odder the better. Bleachy Haired Honky B*tch, Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, Running with Scissors, Plainsong. The majority of Oprah's Book Club picks. Anything new or old, off the shelf or hot off of Amazon. I drew the line, though, on toting my unabridged hardback of The Stand from building to building.

We tore it up, Cross-Hall and I. A Personal Pan Pizza is a mighty motivator. We were crowned the winners. Oh, and a couple of little bookworms, too. We feasted for a full hour on the district's dime.

Val Thevictorian. Voracious reader. Voracious eater.


Stephen Hayes said...

You were an invincible literary storm.

Sioux said...

I have a shirt that says, "Will Write for Food." And I've done that. But READING for food? That's sheer heaven. I would have been a worthy opponent if I worked in your school.

knancy said...

Feed that rat some cheese and watch it run the maze. Pizza - the corporate world's answer to peons for a bonus without a pay raise, a pat on the back without having to touch you, Joe six pack's utopia. I can't stomach pizza anymore. Luckily, you had read a lot of good books and you reveled in an hour away from the JOB.

irishoma said...

It is so uplifting to be part of a community, even if it's online, of book lovers. And I love Sioux's shirt "Will Write for Food." Reading and writing. It doesn't get much better unless there's chocolate involved.

Linda O'Connell said...

They used to bring the pizza to us, from the inner city Pizza Hut on the corner that was always getting robbed. Kids reading for fun. Imagine. Teachers reading for free food, absolutely. I've read most of your titles, too.

Val said...

I have always been a force that needed reckoning with.

Genius used to help somebody at school set up for a yearly fundraiser. He stayed after from 3:00 until 10:00, running sound and carrying equipment. The first two years, he and another helper were rewarded monetarily, at about the minimum wage level, and paid out of the take. Then all at once, no prior mention, they were told at the end of the night, "We didn't make enough. I'll buy you guys a pizza next week."

Isn't that the shirt I advised her to wear often, and write a book chronicling her responses?

Did the thieves steal pizza, or money? Because one is as valuable as the other. Except it's kind of hard to buy books with pizza.