Though we are entering the third year of a pandemic, this is our second year of what we have developed as an annual tradition at the Chippewa River Writing Project (CRWP). In 2020 and 2021, members of our site filled out a Google Form giving a book type selection and their address. I randomly matched them up and the participants mailed each other books we loved or thought our random recipient would love in our $35 budget. Participants were also given the chance to share their book with the other members of the book exchange to help continue to expand our reading lists. You will find the list of 2021 and 2020 at the end of this blog, and you can read about last year’s book exchange here.
Though participation this year was smaller than our inaugural year, participants thoroughly enjoyed the exchange again and found it to be a breath of fresh air and a rejuvenating escape during their winter breaks. They have also found it to be a bit of a human connection between friends and colleagues during a time when it’s still so hard to connect with people.
As I am writing this in early 2022, we have entered the third year of this global pandemic. And pandemic fatigue is real. Health care workers are exhausted. Educators are exhausted. Our students and their parents are exhausted. Essential workers are exhausted. Politicians from all parties are exhausted. Normal human beings are exhausted.
We saw an uptick in “normal” and “post-pandemic” life this summer and this fall, but it seemed like as soon as the holidays started to hit this year, we were knocked back on our butts by not just one but two new variants. These made what we thought we knew about pandemic teaching shift a complete 360 degrees again and we found ourselves right back in March of 2020 — scared and not sure what we were facing. But it was different now too. In many ways we were sick of not knowing what we were facing when it came to the virus, CDC guidelines, pedagogical messages from the federal government on down, attendance in our classrooms, and how to best meet the social and emotional needs of our students.
I think this pandemic fatigue is something we need to keep at the forefront of our minds this year. Not just for ourselves, but for our students. We need to continue to support our students in their reading. It has become more important now than ever before. Reading can and does provide them with escapism, but helps nourish the empathy and understanding that we are all struggling with. It helps open them to new lives, cultures, and works that they can’t explore safely on their own. It helps them continue to question and wonder. It also wraps them in a warm hug and lets them know that often, despite tremendous challenges and the darkest of times, the human spirit prevails.
I think many of us have seen the biggest changes during this pandemic in our reading and writing lives. Though in 2021 I’ve read the most books I’ve ever read in a year, I’ve hardly written a thing. I can’t seem to break through the writer’s block and the idea that I’m just saying the same things over and over again. And that’s okay.
It is okay, too, if we are struggling to read anything complicated or falling behind on our professional reading because we just can’t think about the complicated quagmire we are stuck in. We all need self-compassion right now. No one has written the manual for how to survive life in a global pandemic and we won’t write it if we don’t allow ourselves to heal first from the pandemic fatigue. If that is through reading, great. If that is through writing, fantastic. But we have to keep doing the best we can every day and being okay if it’s not the same as it was three years ago.
We need to remind our students of this as well. Keep reminding and showing them that it’s okay to read above and below their Lexile levels. Remind them that taking breaks from reading for a few days is okay. Remind them that compassion is just as important as self-compassion. Setting a new precedent will get us through these unprecedented times, or at least, that’s how I’m going to get through them.
2021 CRWP Holiday Book Exchange Book List
Young Adult Literature:
- Sadie by Cortney Summers
- Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
- White Bird – R. J. Palacio
- Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
- Cloud Cockoo Land by Anthony Doerr
- Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
- We Begin at the the End by Chris Whitaker
- Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune
- The Ten Thousand Doors Of January – Alix Harrow
- Think Again by Adam Grant
- Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses
- On Writing by Stephen King
2020 CRWP Holiday Book Exchange List
- The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P Kiernan
- The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
- Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce
- Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce
- World of Wonders by Aimee Nezhukemathathil
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
- Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
- Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks by Annie Spence Page
- Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
- Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
- Sadie by Courtney Summers
- A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel by Amor Towles
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
- The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
- The Humans by Matt Haig
- Humans: An A to Z by Matt Haig
- Improvement in Action: Advancing Quality in America’s Schools by Anthony S. Bryk
- The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists by Jaqueline E. Kress & Edward B. Fry
- Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education by Justin Reich
- The Thing Explainer by Randall Monroe
- The Library Book by Susan Orlean
- The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person by Frederick Joseph
- The Guide to the National Parks of United States by National Geographic (7th Edition)
Children’s Books and Family Reads
- A is for Awesome 23 Iconic Women Who Changed The World by Eva Chen
- How to Catch a Yeti by Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton
Recommended Websites/Other Resources
- What Should I Read Next?
- Disrupt Texts
- Guys Read
- SF Signal
- Facing History: To Kill A Mockingbird
- Learning for Justice
- Andy’s Reading Letter
- Was The Great Gatsby Black?
- Call for Proposals: Summit on the Research and Teaching of Young Adult Literature (Online) June 10-12, 2021
Becky Schwartz is an English, Social Studies, and AP Computer Science Principles teacher for Springport High School in Springport, Michigan. She has been a teacher consultant for CRWP since 2015.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.