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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Never Was Much of a Reader-A True Confession!

I once heard a lecture of some sort (on a video, I believe) in college about teaching reading to children. The lecturer said that many of us reading teachers have a difficult time relating to struggling or reluctant readers, because we never were this kind of reader ourselves.

This seems to be true a lot of the time. So many teachers, librarians, authors, mothers, etc. have stories about how they loved reading from a very young age. Many spent the majority of their childhood with their noses in books. They have long lists of books they have read. They have favorites they have read over and over again. They visited the library often. Perhaps they were even teased for being such a bookworm?

I don't have a story like that to share. I never struggled with reading. I have actually always done quite well in school. But I would say I was a bit of a reluctant reader. I don't think anyone would have ever described me as a bookworm.

My childhood was not completely devoid of reading experiences. Not at all. My parents read picture books to my siblings and me frequently while we were growing up. I have many fond memories of that. I can even remember the pride I felt when I completed my first chapter book on my own! When I got to be about school age though, most of the reading I did was required reading (from school). Reading books wasn't how I chose to spend much (if any) of my free time.

There were some spatterings of reading interests during my childhood. I loved Sweet Valley Twins and read many books in that series. I loved Jack Prelutsky and memorized many of his poems (No I won't turn orange if I eat this orange...). I probably read all of the Molly books in the American Girls series (this was when the books were at least as popular as the dolls). In general though, I didn't view reading as much of an enjoyable past time while I was in grade school. And I sometimes mocked those who did bury their nose in a book on the bus ride home.

My second year in high school I started being homeschooled, and finished off my high school years this way. This is probably when my interest in books grew a bit more. I had an awesome family friend that taught my sister and me literature (a retired literature teacher). I fell in love with Louisa May Alcott's books (The Inheritance, Moods, Long Fatal Love Chase). My sister and I laughed out loud together as we read plays like "You Can't Take it With You." I stayed up late many nights reading Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Tess of the Durbervilles.

When I got into college and decided to study education, I discovered children's literature all over again... in a completely different - and amazing - way. While working in preschools (throughout high school, college, and beyond) I realized I had a knack for reading with children, and that I loved lessons that were centered around great books.

... And the rest is history (as they say).

This is not the typical story of how a children's lit. enthusiast grew up. And I'm sometimes embarrassed when I hear my peers in this field discuss their literature-loving childhoods and can't identify with that. Do I really belong here?

The answer is Yes! Because I do know what it' s like for a child to not "get" what's so great about reading. I can identify with that. And hopefully that perspective makes me a better teacher. And maybe a better mother too.

Were you a bookworm growing up, or are there others out there that were like me growing up? If you're out there, speak up and let me know I'm not alone!

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