Our drive to and from Florida takes us through some small towns in three different states. I like being off the main highway for part of the trip and enjoy the slower pace and scenic views of the country roads. There are some towns that we drive through that are picturesque and quaint. And there are some areas we drive through that are depressed and run down.
In South Carolina, there is a small town called Society Hill. It is a town I look forward to driving through despite the abandoned buildings and empty storefronts that line the county road. In Society Hill there is a library -- right there on the main road for everyone driving through town to see.
For years when we drove to Florida, we passed this small library and saw a fundraising sign out front tracking the progress of the effort to build a new library building. Then one day, as we drove through, there it was. The brand new, modern, beautiful Society Hill branch of the Darlington Public Library.
When I first saw the new building, it struck me as such an enormous undertaking for this small, poor town. Then I thought about the commitment that the people of that community must have to literacy and education. What better gift could they give their children than to make sure they have a place to find books, to connect to the world with technology, to gather with peers, to learn?
I have been doing a lot of professional reading this summer -- trying to evaluate my practices and beliefs. I read Donalynn Miller's books about teaching reading, The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild. She writes about how she works to create a community of readers in her classroom. I have been thinking about how I can create the same kind of community at my school and help teachers build that community in their classrooms.
When I think about a reading community, I picture the Society Hill libraries, old and new. It may only exist in my imagination, but there is a reading community there. A group of people that are dedicated to making books available to everyone, to making sure that resources are on hand to help people find the information they need, to making a space that people can meet and discuss and get to know each other.
Donalynn Miller has been added to my teaching heroes list. I will have her books on hand this year as I work to build a reading community at my school. I will also have a picture of the Society Hill library posted by my desk to remind me of the reading community that has been there and the commitment that they have to keeping it going.