Two weeks ago a friend asked a group of us to share our reading experiences. The question was how did you learn how to read at first and how has your reading changed since then. My story isn’t the same as most. I learned to read when I was four because I wanted to be able to read the comics. At (fill in any number you want here) I still love the comics. They are the first thing I read when I get my hands on the newspaper. there is more to the story, but I’ll save that for another blog.
Then I got to thinking. Now my house is covered in books. We won’t move because it would take a moving truck to haul the books and I’m not going to depart with my dearly beloved friends that are encapsulated within the text. That’s big talk for the characters have become so real in my mind I really do forget that they are pretend sometimes.
Another reason I’m not going to let go of the books is because I did not have that many as a child. I still remember reading a Dick and Jane text book over and over as a 6 year old. That was the only book we had in the house for a long time. Then somebody, I can not remember who, gave my parents a mini library. It was an encyclopedia set of short stories that were Christian based. They were Uncle Arthur’s Stories. There were enough to keep me entertained for easily a year. This person’s kindness changed my reading habits.
You know how we fight with our kids to stop playing video games. That was how it was with my parents and my books. “Go out and be a normal kid!” My dad yelled often. Thinking back I couldn’t really blame him. I was reading under the covers with a flashlight by night and in the corners of closets. Anytime I could read Eventually he figured out it was a fight that wasn’t going to be won and he subscribed to the Readers Digest and the Readers Digest short story books and we read together.
Years later I became a reading teacher and that would have students that hate to read. If anyone was wondering, this is proof that God has a sense of humor. Every year up until January I have to convince kids that reading and getting a root canal are not synonymous. This year has been harder than others. It is April and this tough group of kids has finally realized they like to read if it is a topic that can hold their interest. Every year the topic is different. This year it is Walter Dean Myers. I have a group of boys that will read anything if it has to do with war. One of them hadn’t finished a book this year. He’d read with me, but if he was left to his own devices there were a lot more thing to do other than reading. Grrrrrr.
Per his request, I bought Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers, and the little nonreader wasn’t reading it. Prompted by the memory of my childhood reading experience I said to Mr. Nonreader, “If you’ll read this book, I will let you have it.”
Magic Happened. He read and asked for a bookmark. This child had been under my tutelage for 24 weeks and never asked for a bookmark. That was just the beginning.Now he comes to class sharing about what he read the night prior, talking about the characters like they were his friends.
I smiled and listened. That’s all I could do because I couldn’t contribute to the conversation because he had my only copy of the book. But that didn’t matter to him, because for the first time in our relationship, he was the one sharing the information with me. That was a change I never saw coming. Although I have to say, I so love it when that happens. It keeps me on my toes.