by Bianca Medina AmeriCorps Member serving on the New Schools for Baton Rouge/Entergy Louisiana team at Broadmoor Middle School

Today is a special day for all lovers of words and for those who have yet to discover their interest in literature. In the spirit of Read Across America Day, a few CYBR corps members answered some questions about the importance of reading.

What is your favorite genre of literature and why?

DALLAS KHAMISS: I enjoy books centered on a protagonist in isolation, one who is forced to weave his way through the threatening world around him/her.

ANNMARIE VALENTIN: I am a sucker for romance. No two love stories are the same and I enjoy reading about each one of them.

CURTIS GILLAM: I enjoy stories that explore the self --where you can live vicariously through the main character and you can easily internalize his struggles and share his perspective. That applies for more than the actual story itself. I like to carry that character with me and perhaps incorporate his story into my story.

SAM FRANKLIN: Why is this so hard to choose?! I’ll go with sci-fi because you know what makes a romance, action, or mystery novel even better? Outerspace and robots!

What are your top five favorite works of literature?


A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving

The Body  - Stephen King

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

“Ode to Salt” - Pablo Neruda

 Rosemary’s Baby - Ira Levin


The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein

Tuesdays with Morrie - Mitch Albom

Song of Solomon - Toni Morrison

“A Perfect Day for a Bananafish” - J.D. Salinger

The Color Code - Taylor Hartman


Outwitting the Devil - Napoleon Hill

The Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling

48 Laws of Power - Robert Greene and Joost Elffers

Rich Dad Poor Dad - Robert Kiyosaki

Ideas and Opinions - Albert Einstein


Flowers for Algernon - Daniel Keyes

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

Good Omens - Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

Winter’s Tale - Mark Helprin

Vietnam: A History - Stanley Karnow                       

What are you currently reading?

DALLAS KHAMISS: The Wisdom of Insecurity - Alan Watts

ANNMARIE VALENTIN: Saltwater - Rae Cross

CURTIS GILLAM: Outwitting the Devil - Napoleon Hill

SAM FRANKLIN: The Lives of the Caesars - Suetonius

How does reading influence you and help shape your life?

DALLAS KHAMISS: Through reading, I can live a myriad of lives without directly experiencing them. This not only allows me to become more connected with myself, but also equips me with the words --and word structure-- to better express myself to others.

ANNMARIE VALENTIN: Reading allows me to escape from reality whenever I need a break. I read a lot of self-help/motivational books and it gives me the opportunity to step back, self-reflect, and grow.

CURTIS GILLAM: Reading really shapes artistic approach to life. When I’m reading, I really do visualize what’s going on. You see these characters and you understand the dynamic of these characters from a third party perspective. Reading also liberates me. It helps me feel like, “Oh, I’m not alone in this.”

SAM FRANKLIN: Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, reading has allowed me to learn so much about myself and the world around. I have found that reading pulls my heartstrings more than music and invokes my imagination more than the silver screen ever could.

Why is it so important for our students to read on a regular basis?

DALLAS KHAMISS: Besides being a necessary life skill, reading provides students with the tools to write --one of the greatest outlets of expression and communication of ideas.

ANNMARIE VALENTIN: Whether our students want to believe it or not, reading is everywhere. Most would argue that a proficiency in reading allows for you to get further in life. Reading is like a skill and in order to get better at a skill, one must constantly practice.

CURTIS GILLAM: A fifth-grade girl in my class reads every single day. She is able to articulate herself and her own views. She gathers information from what she reads to articulate herself. If you read consistently --everyday-- it really does elevate you intellectually and opens your mind to different ideas and thoughts that help shape you and your outlook on life.

SAM FRANKLIN: Reading is the very foundation on which a successful education is built. But beyond the academic reasons, reading is also what allows us to connect with others of different cultures, backgrounds, and ideals; to reach the words of those who came before us. It is imperative for our students to read not just for success in school, but to become more well-rounded people.

How have you encouraged your students to read?

DALLAS KHAMISS: Because I don’t view reading as a process separate from writing, I put equal emphasis on both skills in my small groups. I’ve learned that students love to create something novel of their own, and I use my intervention space for this purpose. For instance, after we last read a drama piece, my students and I worked together on writing our own short play, and, most recently, we are working on writing the ending to a short fiction piece. By connecting the creative process of writing to reading, I believe that students become more encouraged to view text as a tool, rather than a burden.

ANNMARIE VALENTIN: I’m in an 8th grade math class so encouraging my students to read is not always the easiest thing. I constantly speak to my students about the books I am currently reading and try to engage them to read a book alone with me.

CURTIS GILLAM: I encourage them to explore different ideas and books. I tell them to open their minds up to different things and that they will find an appreciation for things if they continue to keep an open mind.

SAM FRANKLIN: To most of my 3rd graders, reading is often seen as a chore -- both boring and difficult. I have found the best way to encourage my students to read is by finding material they actually want to read. There, they can hone their reading skills so that when they go back to the “boring” reading, they find that it probably was not so bad as they originally thought.


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