Cara Rager is the Manager of Educational Training and Family Engagement at WXXI in Rochester, NY. In her role, she works to engage, support, and empower Rochester’s families and educators using public media and PBS resources. In case you’re wondering, that’s Cara between D.W. and Buster!
Are you a fiction or non-fiction reader?
I mostly read fiction – I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers like The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, and The Girls by Emma Cline. Lately, though, I’ve been getting more into biographies. I’m loving reading about the lives of comedians, such as Bossypants by Tina Fey, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer, and Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow. But my most favorite recent bio read was Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones. Given my work at WXXI Education and growing up with Sesame Street, The Muppets, and Fraggle Rock, I learned so much about Jim Henson, his creativity, the people he worked with, and all the places and spaces that he impacted.
What book are you recommending that everyone read right now?
Educated by Tara Westover. I couldn’t put the book down and I’m pretty sure I was in shock reading most of the book because I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that it was a true story. I’ve been telling everyone to read it and even bought it as a Christmas gift for my mom to read! Highly recommend.
Is there a book you feel is highly overrated?
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I read it, I think the basic message is there but to me, I felt like a lot of women were left out of her picture. I do think it’s important for women to be empowered to shake up the status quo in places where they feel like they are not being supported or treated equally, such as their workplace. And I also think it’s really important to hear stories from lots of different women who have been able to make serious change. But, given all the praise the book got in the beginning, I wasn’t as impressed when I read it.
What book changed your life, or changed how you view the world? In what way?
I actually have two books that changed my view of the world and specifically my philosophy of education – Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen and The People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. I read both books when I was in my undergraduate education program at St. John Fisher College. As someone who loved school and learning and was going to school to be a teacher, this was the first moment that I realized that the whole picture was not being taught in school AND that it was my charge as a teacher to make sure my students left with a variety of perspectives of history to build the full picture. I definitely felt cheated when reading these books and learning how much I didn’t know.
Do you read with your children? What are some of their favorite books?
While I don’t have kids of my own yet, I do have 6 nieces and nephews and I love children’s books! I love to read with them when I can, but I especially love choosing books for them. Gifting books is one of my favorite things; I like to collect some information about books/topics/genres they like and then see what treasures I can find. I love that they all have such different reading preferences even being so young. My niece, Ruby, is 2 years old and loves dinosaurs (like her older brother), cooking, and dress-up. For Christmas, I gave her Brontorina by James Howe (from Webster!) about a dinosaur who wants to be a ballerina but is too big and Razzle-Dazzle Ruby by Masha D’yans about a spunky little girl who uses her imagination to go on adventures with her dog. I have another niece, Lila, who is 8 years old and devouring books like crazy right now. She loves comic books (like Garfield!) and graphic novels and she’s really enjoying book series. For her birthday in November I gave her Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea (A Narwhal and Jelly Book #1) by Ben Clanton which is the first book in a super silly series about a friendship between a narwhal and a jellyfish who both love waffles, parties, and adventures. She loved it!
Are you a “finisher” or do stop reading a book if you’re not connecting with it?
My personal philosophy is that reading should be enjoyable – that said, there are times when you must read something – but if I’m reading for pleasure, I’m happy to discard a book if it’s not grabbing me. I think choice is a big part of getting people hooked on reading – especially kids. I love getting lost inside books and then sharing what I’ve read or learned. Not everything is interesting to me and I’m okay leaving a book behind. Perfect example: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet.
Why do you read?
I read to relax, escape, exercise my brain, and learn.
What is at the top of your To Be Read pile?
Michelle Obama’s Becoming. I’m on the waitlist for the ebook but I might have to just buy it because I’m #138 of 30 copies!
Describe your favorite place to read.
My favorite place to read is on the couch, under a blanket, with a cup of coffee, and in between my two dogs. It’s the best, coziest spot.