I have loved reading books since I first learned to read in Mrs. Gorey’s first grade class. Learning to read wasn’t a piece of cake for me. I was in a catch up reading group when I entered first grade, because the kindergarten I was enrolled in did not teach the “letter people.” My peers all knew the full 26 member letter people family when they entered first grade – I had to catch up. I remember thinking that this was hard business, and that I might never even reach the sixth grade. But lo and behold, by the end of first grade I was an emergent reader. And by the time I did reach sixth grade, I had graduated to the accelerated reading group.
I had caught the reading bug bad by the 3rd or 4th grade. I remember one summer visiting the library weekly and checking out four books at a time, and reading them all simultaneously, so I could get four new ones on my next visit. Ah the carefree summer days of youth, when the most taxing things to keep track of were all those characters and plots.
I’ve enjoyed watching my kids reach this stage of falling madly, deeply in love with books and the magical experiences awaiting them between the front cover and the final punctuation mark. None of my three children started out as early readers. Two of them had to work hard at first, like I did, and as many kids do. My oldest is now part of a YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association – a division of the American Library Association) group that reviews books for nomination to the Top Ten Teen Books of the Year award. And while he’s an active teenager, playing sports and video games, texting friends – all those mainstream teen activities – he will pick up books to read for pleasure too. He also reads Newsweek to keep abreast of what’s happening in the world, and Sports Illustrated of course.
His brother, an avid athlete and video game addict, pours over books every night before bed. He always begs for a few extra minutes to finish up a page or a chapter when I come to turn out his light. And, like any kid who has something to prove, he never even flinches at a thick book with mega pages. “Bring ’em on,” he seems to say. “That book is gonna be worth every turn of the page. It can’t scare me.” Both boys have recently added a book to the stack beside my bed telling me I just really have to read them. “You really have to mom – it’s really good. I think you’ll really like it.” 🙂 I couldn’t be more proud.
And finally, what moved me to write this post in the first place, was the shared experience of reading Matilda to my daughter. We just finished the book last week. As with any story that captures your full imagination and carries you into a world of adventure with its characters, when the journey ended we felt rather sad to have to put the book back on the shelf. Having never read the book myself when I was young, I got to enjoy the experience as if I were 8 years old all over again. We completely dove into the experience together and relished the sweet, tender relationship between Matilda and Miss Honey, shuddered at the terrors of Miss Trunchbull and felt a pathetic sadness about Matilda’s dimwitted and uncaring parents. Thank you Roald Dahl for bringing Matilda to life for us and allowing us this wonderful shared experience!
It’s amazing the difference it makes for a child to have this deep seated love of books and stories. While reading was a chore in first grade, my daughter will now do the “bed time beg” to stay up and read just one more page in this rather challenging chapter book. She tells me with a completely dead serious face that she simply cannot fall to sleep unless we read stories first. She’s got it bad – I think my boys do too. And it’s one fierce habit I hope they never break.