I was a struggling reader as a child.
I am always a little jealous of people who started reading at an early age because they have that many more years of reading than I do.
I don’t remember being in the lowest reading class of first grade, but I know now that I was. What I remember is that I hated reading because it was so booooring. We were assigned home readers, which were usually old reading textbooks – the kind full of short stories. To me, the stories were entirely pointless and uninteresting.
What I was given to read didn’t interest me, so I didn’t practice reading much. I wasn’t a good reader because I didn’t practice much. I didn’t get to read more interesting things because I wasn’t a good reader. Thus the vicious cycle ensued.
I have a very specific memory of sitting in my bedroom with my home reader. My mother had told me that I had to go read. I am compliant, so I did. But also, the story was dumb. I intentionally mispronounced every word to myself as an act of protest.
In second grade, there were no more home readers. Hallelujah. Amen. Instead we went to the school library and could borrow any book of our choice, as long as it had no less than 100 pages. That would be the book we took home with us to read in the evenings.
I decided that maybe I could tolerate books about animals, so I borrowed any book that had a cat, dog, and horse sticker (denoting an animal story at our library) on the spine. I didn’t read the summary, didn’t check to see what it was about, and I didn’t care if it was 101 or 200+ pages. Who wrote it? It didn’t matter. I read It’s Like This, Cat, The One-Eyed Cat; and Rafa’s Dog. Do I remember anything about these books? Not really. But it was in them (and others with the cat, dog, and horse sticker) that I fell in love with reading.
Library day became my favorite day of school: shelves higher than I could reach, half the width of my school building, filled with possibilities. In high school, I went from class to class with my 3-ring binder, appropriate text book, and whatever I happened to be reading at the time. I wouldn’t want to be caught with time on my hands and nothing to read.
In The Uncommon Reader, we follow the Queen in her accidental journey to becoming a reader. It is a fun, short, lighthearted read. I love all of the Queen’s thoughts and experiences as books take over her life. There are so many great quotes about reading.
“What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned, and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do.” Been there!
“Books are not about passing the time. They’re about other lives. Other worlds. Far from wanting time to pass, Sir Kevin, one just wishes one had more of it.”
“The sheer endlessness of books outfaced her and she had no idea how to go on; there was no system to her reading, with one book leading to another, and often she had two or three on the go at the same time.” This is my life.
“’I think of literature,’ she wrote, ‘as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach. And I have started too late. I will never catch up.’” While I sometimes feel that starting to read at age 7 was a bit late, it’s not as late as the Queen started. But no one will ever catch up. The world is so full of books!
Let’s talk in the comments. When did you start loving to read? Why do you love to read? Do you have a system for choosing your “to reads” or do you select books haphazardly?
P.S. We’ll discuss the second half next week.