To Reluctant Readers and Those Who are Concerned for Them

girlreading1I’m in a minority among writers. Most author bios I read refer to the their lifelong love of reading, that they started reading at a young age and devoured book after book.

I am not one of those writers. Don’t get me wrong–I love to read. Now. Not when I was a kid. When I was a kid, reading was the last thing I wanted to do. 

I vividly remember my first grade teacher calling a meeting with my mother. They discussed how I was behind, how I just wasn’t picking up on reading the way I should be. They wanted to put me in a special reading group. I’m not making a judgement call on the teacher, regardless it made me feel like I wasn’t very smart. All the other kids were getting it and I wasn’t. Before that point, I hadn’t been concerned. I felt like I was learning and slowly getting better. I was trying hard to do classroom-488375_1280what the other kids were doing. After the meeting, I felt there was something wrong with me. I was embarrassed when they pulled me out of class for the special reading help. To add to my negative feelings, I was also placed in speech therapy. I needed it. I’m glad they did it. But, as a kid, it didn’t feel good. It reinforced my growing belief that something was wrong with me.

My second grade year was much the same. I was in the lowest reading group. Going to the library made me nervous. Books were for people who were good at reading. If I checked out a book at my level, the other kids would know I could only read baby books. Classmates would discuss books they’d read and I’d always find a way out of the conversation or lie and say I’d read the book and agree with whatever they said about it.

girlreadingWhen I changed schools for grade three my file followed me. Again, I was in the lowest reading group. I hated it. I looked at the kids in the higher groups and envied them. I changed schools again the year after and the year after that. I loved story time, when the teachers read to us, but reading for myself was tough. I could read, but I was slow. I couldn’t skim and it took me a painfully long time to get through a book, but I got it. I understood all of it. I hated being in the low group because the stories were too simplistic. I wanted more even though I knew it would be hard.

In the sixth grade I changed schools again, only this time there was a glitch. My new teacher told me that my file hadn’t arrived yet and he wanted to know what reading level I’d been in the year before. So I lied. I’d been in the highest level, of course. He put me in that group and I was determined to stay there. I worked hard. When my file arrived, my teacher and I had a little talk. In the end, he allowed me to stay in the group since I seemed to be doing well there. 

In junior high I was moved into the talented and gifted program and continued on in advanced classes all through high school.

Now, I’m an avid reader and a writer. I’m still a slow reader. I still can’t skim. I still read every single word, but I feel that it’s made me a stronger writer. 

What I’m hoping you take home from this–don’t write kids off if they don’t pick-up on reading when you think they should. Give them time. Help them to feel good about reading instead of feeling a ball of anxiety in their gut every time they look at a book. 

And if you’re a kid like I was, don’t label yourself. You are smart. You are a reader. Find someone to help you find a book you can read and that you’re interested in. And whatever you do, keep reading. Do NOT give up on yourself!




Falling in Love…With a Book

What is that thing? That thing some books do.

You know what I mean. You can’t put your finger on it. It goes beyond beautiful prose, engaging characters, and fascinating plot lines. It’s the difference between liking a book and prideLOVING a book. That thing that gets your heart racing, adrenaline surging, arms shaking as you hold it to your nose at three in the morning. That thing that make you want to flip to page one and start again as soon as you read the last page. 

 I just finished a book I really liked. I’d recommend it to anyone, but it didn’t have “that thing.” So it made me wonder—what is it? IMG_4104

Is it a connection with the main character? Is it that sense that I’m walking in their shoes, feeling every breath, step, and ache. That somehow I’m a part of them and they’re a part of me. And from now on there will always be that connection.

Is it a setting that makes me feel like I’ve been whisked away? When I look up from the pages I’m disappointed to see that I’m still in my living room. A place so vivid, I can fool myself into believing I’ve really been there.

pride2Is it a plot that keeps my heart pummelling my intercostals with every chase, every revelation, every kiss?

Is it the opportunity to fall in love? What Mr. Darcy has been doing to women for two centuries.

Very few books occupy this spot for me. I’ve liked a lot of books, but only loved a few. Last Christmas, Kate Morton’s, The Forgotten Garden so unnerved me that I was unable to write for three days. I didn’t wantforgotten the book to end and I couldn’t get the tale out of my head enough to make space for my own stories. It was, actually, kind of frightening.

            What books have done “that thing” for you? Which characters have become part of you? Which have you fallen in love with? I’d love to see your comments below.

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