When I tell people what I do, they cringe. Seriously cringe—as though I’ve just pinched them or recounted a dramatic history of medieval bloodletting. I teach ninth-grade English. On cue, they are abuzz with stories of memorizing Shakespearean soliloquies and reciting conjugations of irregular verbs. I admit this is only a small part of what I do (the bloodletting, not the recitation of irregular verbs). Predictably, the conversation veers toward the demographic composition of my inner-city charter school and how it must be so difficult to teach English to those children. How it must be impossible to make those students read because their parents probably don’t know who Shakespeare is.
“I have often thought that nothing would do more extensive good at small expense than the establishment of a small circulating library in every county, to consist of a few well-chosen books, to be lent to the people of the country under regulations as would secure their safe return in due time.”
Thomas Jefferson – letter to John Wyche, 1809.