Books CAN Change Lives

#SOL16 Day 5 Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 5.11.16 PM

I’m driving this Saturday morning to a National Board workshop, sipping my coffee and listening to NPR when my ears perk up… “Pat Conroy, adopted son of the South Carolina low country has died. The novelist who wrote nearly a dozen books, including “The Prince Of Tides” and “The Great Santini,” was 70. Just last month, he announced he had pancreatic cancer.

Oh, crap. No more words will ever flow from that gifted man’s pen.  The cathartic characters he created in the Prince of Tides and the Great Santini still frequent my thoughts from time to time. The courage it must have taken to write stories so close to home is inspiring. What a loss to the world. I whisper a little prayer.


They play an interview from 2010. He reflects on his memoir My Reading Life. He remembers his mother, Peg, who told him, “books could change lives – they were like friends that could be counted on in a childhood spent moving from Marine base to Marine base”.

I think about how Conroy’s “friends” had such a profound influence on his life.  And it was a rough life.  His father was a tough marine and a brutal man.  As Conroy revealed, “Dad would not hit you if he saw you reading. He thought you were studying. And it was the one time – you know, one place you could go to get away from his fists. And it worked every time.

I thought about  my students with incredibly difficult lives.  I know for a fact, many find solace in the books they read. They find “friends”. This is one of the many realizations that drives my passion for creating literate lives for every one of our students. Books CAN change lives. They changed Pat Conroy’s.  His went on to change others’.

I scroll through mental images of several students that I’d like to talk to more this week. I feel compelled to check in on their reading lives. I know for some, this will be the only window into their personal lives they allow any light to shine through. I want them to find those books that speak to them, inspire them, change them.

I know we can do this. One reader, one book at a time.



16 thoughts on “Books CAN Change Lives

  1. A beautiful tribute to an amazing author. I didn’t know he died. I, too, have students who escape their lives through reading. Some find themselves. Reading can change lives.

  2. It has been a long time since I have read any of his work, but now I want to find My Reading Life. You are so right when you say students find “friends” in books. You are also right when you say we can this one reader, one book at a time! Great post.

  3. I’m glad I read your post. I’ve never read anything by Pat Conroy but feel like I should definitely add his book, especially his memoir (I’m a sucker for a memoir, especially a gifted writer’s memoir). Thanks for this, and for the reminder that books can change everything.

  4. Thank you for sharing this tribute and touching reminder of the power of books. It is a huge reminder that we must get the right books into the hands of our readers.

  5. “Oh, crap. No more words will ever flow from that gifted man’s pen.” MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY! I loved his book My Reading Life. I twas so perfect showing us how reading inspires writing and how they go hand in hand. And, yet, so many still don’t get this simple connection.

  6. After agreeing with the previous comments, I want to add that the quotes you included added extra power and emotion to your post. It is a beautiful post.

    At the symphony tonight, I was reflecting on the wonder of music that lives on long after the composer has died. I think it will be the same for Pat Conroy. Thank you for sharing.

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