Carrie Pencek

As a kindergartener, I was determined to read Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham from cover to cover. The book delighted me to no end— its cadence, its silliness, its fantastical settings. I couldn’t quite take in all those words yet, so I asked my very patient older sisters to read it to me. Eventually, I learned it by heart and proudly presented my “reading skills” to my parents… while holding the book upside down.

I did, of course, learn to read, and from that moment on, my nose was in a book. With no English-speaking friends in my Belgian neighborhood, I escaped into stories. In sixth grade, I felt something shift in me when I read Bridge to Terabithia— it was the first time a book made me cry (but certainly not the last!). In high school, I stayed awake until the wee hours reading Night. Years later, I was in line well before midnight for the final Harry Potter release. Books have grounded me, inspired me, and transformed me throughout my life. Through stories, we can access emotions that unite us as humans: pain, joy, fear, rage, sorrow. We can enter into a mythical world and join a hero on their quest. We can admire one character’s courage and empathize with another’s flaws.

18 years into my career as an educator, I have shared my passion for reading and writing with hundreds of students in Florida, Washington D.C., Madrid, New York City, and Seattle. As a 4th and 5th grade language arts teacher, I love experiencing literature through the eyes of my students. I discover phenomenal new books based on their recommendations, and I also find myself reconnecting with old favorites and introducing them to a new generation.