I joined the TableThink team at the table and shared some stories about my childhood, my struggles learning to read, and some of my thoughts on how to make reading an important part of life.

You can listen here as well as under the column, TableThink podcast. Be sure and subscribe to hear more bimonthly podcasts on itunes and podbean.  This specific conversation is listed under TableThink 007: At The Table With Tiffany Carter.  

I’ve been thinking about how reading gives perspective . . . 

Literary People Watching

I have always been drawn to stories about people. Memoirs, biographies, slice of life stories… I love literary “people watching”. There’s a lot of good reasons to read within these genres, one of which is the experience of seeing life through someone else’s point of view- taking a walk in someone else’s shoes. I think it builds compassion and empathy when we learn about the experiences of others, learn about other ways of life, and other cultures.

A few years ago I read several “motherhood memoirs” and it was like having the wit and wisdom of fellow moms  encouraging me as I was treading in the waters of brand new motherhood. I would tell my friends about these people, who I felt like I personally knew after reading their stories, and we would talk about what they went through, how they handled it, and what we could learn from their stories. The thread that I had in common with these stories was motherhood, but the differences were vast. Mothers from various places around the world, with different ways of life, different challenges, different philosophies- it was fascinating and it broadened my thinking about motherhood and opened my eyes to more than what I knew from my experiences.

Last year I wanted to introduce my fifth grade students to this genre with a story that would open their eyes to life very different from theirs. We read “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba. This story is amazing. It’s a non-fiction book about a boy who dared to hope and dream amid life in the South African country of Malawi during a famine. It’s about a boy who pursued his education, tinkered and invented and created a windmill out of junkyard parts that would become a catalyst of change for him, his family, and his community. It opens the reader’s eyes to a very different way of life, different challenges, and a different educational system. It builds awareness about real life in real places outside of our neighborhoods.

I think these stories are so important to read, talk about, and share- especially with kids- because they need to know and think about life that looks different than their own. They need to feel empathy and compassion for others. And they need to be inspired by others who face challenges that they cannot imagine facing.

I encourage you to find a book that tells someone else’s story- even better if the author tells their own story with their unique voice and perception. These books not only open our eyes and help us to connect with others and see other point of views, but they are the kind of books that you pass along to a friend, share over coffee, and discuss in conversations. They also begin to help us see our own story- how the ups and downs are meaningful in the big picture and that we to have a unique story that, written on paper or not, sits in unison with others as we journey forward.

So, I invite you to participate in some literary people watching with me… here’s a few to get you started.

For/with kids (third grade and up):

  1. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba (check out his TED talks and upcoming movie too).
  2. El Deafo by Cece Bell
  3. Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges
  4. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  5. Real Friends by Shannon Hale
  6. This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy
  7. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis
  8. Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang

Tiffany Carter is wife (to Drew), mom (to Ellie-5, Jack-3, and Matthew- 6 months), and an elementary school teacher. She loves to read and believes there is no such thing as too many books! She especially loves children’s books and reading with kids. 


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