It stuns me when I hear someone, anyone, say they don’t read; not because they’re tired or haven’t found anything of interest – but because they just don’t.
When I was a kid, I hated reading. My sister, ten years my senior, would force me to read aloud. I hated it. I hated the sound of my voice as I stumbled and stuttered and mispronounced words. Reading made me feel dumb, especially in front of my older sister whom I idolized.
At school, I would cringe when the teacher glanced around the class searching for a volunteer to read aloud. It was painful for me and everyone around me when I was chosen. Why did we have to read out loud? Why couldn’t the teacher leave me in peace to daydream, as I wanted while skimming over the words? Then, I thought, if I just read faster, no one would have time tell if I was mispronouncing words.
Reading isn’t a chore, it’s a truly life changing journey.
The teacher called home and told my mother that I might be “slow”. Granted, this wasn’t that long ago, but it was well before the time of rigorous political correctness. My mother, horrified, turned to me when she hung up the phone, and asked how could my teacher think I was slow? I remember shrugging, but knowing it was because of my reading.
I would read so fast that by the time I got to the end of the sentence, I had no idea what I’d started with. I absorbed nothing – I retained nothing unless it was spoken to me, and that was only if I wasn’t actively paying attention.
Was I really slow? I was little, but I remember how the negative connotations fell around me with that word. Was there something wrong with me? Would I have to change classes? Maybe I wouldn’t have to read aloud anymore.
While I was contemplating how being slow could benefit me, my mother was nearly in hysterics. She went to my sister, then in high school, and asked how she could have missed that I was a step behind? My sister, refusing to believe it, dragged me to her room and handed me a book.
“Read it.” She didn’t say it nicely.
“It’s too long.”
She gave me the look my mother gave us when we were being petulant. I opened the book and read to myself.
I sighed and began to read aloud. She stopped me after two sentences.
“What did you just read?”
I shrugged because I truly had no idea.
She looked and me and asked me to read again. She slowed me. She stopped me after each sentence to explain what I just read. It didn’t matter how short the sentence was, I had to explain it. She made me think. She asked me questions. Why would he say that? Why would she do this? How big do you think that is? Have you ever seen one of those before?
I began to process the words to think critically as I was reading. I tried to come up with answers to my sister’s questions before she asked them. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I began making the words person and that changed everything.
It was almost like a cloud being lifted from my eyes; not only was I reading the words out loud and understanding them – I could see the words. I could see the things the words were telling me. They weren’t just words, it was like a movie playing in my head and I loved movies. Everything made sense.
I made my mother take me to the library then the book store, a small place called The Little Professor that closed when Barnes and Noble moved across the highway. I devoured the Goosebumps! books. I combed through everything R.L. Stine, and then I moved onto Christopher Pike because that’s what my sister read. I wanted to be transported to other worlds. I wanted to discover new places and be scare and laugh and go on adventures.
Discovering my passion for reading changed my life, so when someone tells me they don’t read, I scoff. When a writer says it to me, I’m outraged. Reading isn’t a chore, it’s a truly life changing journey.
How did you fall in love with reading?
Coming up next: 6 Reasons Why Writers Need to Read More