The top five books that my third and fourth grade teachers introduced into my life, shaping me into the person I am today and solidifying my pursuit in all things storytelling. While this is only a fraction of the stories we read, it is a mighty list and in honor of those two great individuals that introduced them to me. Thanks, Mrs. Arbogast & Mr. Ryan!
My introduction to all things Little House and Laura Ingalls. Already well on my way to becoming a fan of things prairie-girl related, this book was entertaining as it was informative. Read in third grade, my teacher Mrs. Arbogast celebrated our completion of the book with a prairie style party with all of the fixings like vanity cakes, just like Laura had!
"They'll have to pry this book out of my curriculum when I'm dead and cold," said my fourth grade teacher to me back in 2005 when I visited him. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe may be an allegory for Christian stories already told, but it is a stepping stone into the world of fantasy novels and the hero's journey for children of all ages. Mr. Ryan's dedication to this book and always keeping it in fourth grade is beyond commendable as he refused to dumb down his materials as requested by the powers that be throughout the years.
The ultimate reality-based, modern day Spunky Girl heroine, Ramona Quimby. In my eyes, Beverly Cleary can do no wrong. Ramona was just the protagonist I didn't even realize I had been searching for in third grade and major gratitude to Mrs. Arbogast for introducing her to me (and the other kids of room 9)
Mr. Ryan never shied away from the heavier topics in childrens literature, and Tuck Everlasting was right at the top with themes like immortality, death, right and wrong, greed and humility. He wasn't afraid to earnestly ask any nine-year-old, "What would you if you found immortality?" More than any other book we read that year, it is Tuck Everlasting that I remember Mr. Ryan's deep narrative as he joined in our Round Robin and read one of the more ominous moments. It's books like Tuck Everlasting and teachers like Mr. Ryan who initiate dialogue about the abstract that leave the most profound impression on young minds.
Without fail, tears stream down my cheeks as I come to the last chapters just as they did twenty years ago when Mrs. Arbogast read us this brilliantly moving novel. The tale of poor, but determined Billy and his devotion and love to his two dogs, Ann and Dan is as an endearing a story as any American classic. Like Tuck Everlasting in Mr. Ryan's class, it is with great clarity that I can recall the words of a harrowing moment being read aloud, emotion quaking our voices.