Once a week I go to the library with my students. Invariably the stack of work I’ve brought along to grade gets set aside. I wander the shelves recommending books to kids and scan new arrivals. I corner a few reluctant readers and successfully place a book I know they’ll love in their hands. I remind a clutch of kiddos to stay on task and admire beautiful displays up by the librarian.
After everyone has checked out a book and is seated and quietly reading, I sneak over to the magazine rack. Because our school subscribes to a wide variety of publications that are available to students and staff alike, I have no need to pay to get my own at home.
Today I grab a National Geographic that has caught my eye. The front cover boasts images and stories of Vikings. This group of ancient people are of particular interest to me. I’m writing a YA fantasy novel set in Iceland. The myths, fashion and passion of the Vikings are traits I wish to infuse in my story world. Thus, any and all material about them that crosses my path I quite literally inhale.
I opened the magazine to the table of contents and scanned it to find the article on the Vikings. After all, I only have fifteen minutes left of class! I needed to make the most of my time! But as I flipped the pages to find my reading destination, I slowed, paused and eventually stopped. As much as I wanted to rush to the Vikings, the knowledge casualty count was rising to an alarming rate. I stopped and went back to the beginning.
I read about a team of adventurers who kite sailed across Greenland. I saw images of mooring posts half frozen like mushrooms at low tide. I stalked through the London’s Richmond Park on a misty morning, living vicariously as a red stag. I learned about a monastery in Egypt and their efforts to recover erased texts from parchments that had been recycled by scraping off the ink one letter at a time. I had the opportunity to reaffirm my belief in climate change and challenge myself to do something about it. All in sixteen glossy print pages.
Now this might sound like an advertisement for National Geographic (it isn’t). But it is a plea to sit down and read… something. Anything. If I hadn’t read today, I would have missed so much.