What I love about working in a middle school is the constant exposure to books that are old favorites and ones that may become new ones.
As a language arts teacher, I love introducing new books to kids. Many books I love. Some I don't. With one, I've even chimed in when a student said, "Ugh. I can't stand this book."
"Not my favorite either," I answered. I hated it, actually. But I didn't go that far.
And it got me to thinking. We're reading this book. We're going to keep reading it. Let's make the best of it. I started looking for things about the book that validated it. When I found a quote I liked, I marked it down. When a character acted in a repugnant way for no reason whatsoever, I tried to see why (never found out why, but still tried to be non-biased). Each time I encountered something about the book that bugged me, I looked for something that didn't. I got through that book and we moved on to something MUCH better (The Contender by Robert Lipsyte).
Fast forward to this year. It's time to read above book again. I brace myself, cringe as I open the first pages, and then breathe. This time around, it's not as bad. I'm enjoying it a lot more. I'm picking up on things I didn't the first time around. This book will never be on my list of favorites, but something happened when I decided to give it a chance. Now, when students gripe and moan about it, I can honestly help them see a different perspective.
I had a similar experience with a different book, but this time I wasn't the one who didn't like the novel. We were about to read FLIPPED. I had never read this before but loved the premise. One of the teachers who had taught it before said it wasn't her thing so I was a little weary opening that first page. But from Bryce's first lines, I fell in love. Not with him because he was not the nicest kid, but with the voices, with Julie, with the perspective and message. I mentioned this to the teacher, and she said, "You know. It's been a while since I've read it. Maybe it's me."
I don't know if I changed her mind, but my head-over-heels passion for the book definitely made her reread parts and take another look.
Unfortunately, outside of work, I don't do this. I have an almost seven year old, am working on writing projects, am getting too close to deadline on another and I don't have the luxury of giving a book I don't like a chance. Recently, my library did this AWESOME event called "Blind Date with a Book." Books were wrapped and you knew nothing about it except for the age group (picture, YA, Adult, easy reader, etc.). My son excitedly chose a picture book, and I a YA and adult. Seeing that book unwrapped was better than any blind date I ever had. The YA was one I'd been meaning to read so I was excited about it. The adult was one on my list too because it got lots of awards, was acclaimed, there was a movie. But then I read the first page of adult book and had to put it down. I picked it up a few days later and tried to read two pages. Nope. Not my thing. You know after a while which styles you like and want to put time into.
But I am glad for my job that allows me to give books many chances, and compel students to do the same.