A friend posted a question recently asking about the first book that made you love reading. I don't remember one book I couldn't read, and then four.
I desperately wanted to be able to read before I could. I remember checking one book out of the library. It was a picture book, with pictures of a barn and horse and rooster, and I was willing myself so hard to understand the words and I couldn't.
I have told this story before, but I had not gone to kindergarten, and it seemed like every other child in my first grade class had. It was not standard yet then, but it was common. We were divided into different reading groups based on skill, and I was in the lowest, with ditto sheets folded into books where no word was longer than three letters. (There was a tin man and a pig.)
But I was determined to read, and I had this plan that I would work my way up, through all of the groups, and so I would get all of the books and be able to read all of the stories in all of the books, and then suddenly I was moved up to the highest group, with the Green Feet book.
I'm not sure how that happened. It don't remember any struggles or flashes; suddenly I could read, and I wanted to read everything. That's where the four came in.
I have a sort of a desire for completion. What happened may have happened because I saw a cartoon of The Practical Princess, by Jay Williams, on TV, but suddenly I not only saw that we had that book in the school library, but I also found The Light Princess and The Princess and the Goblins by George MacDonald, and The Plain Princess by Phyllis McGinley, and I had to check them all out right then. This was an issue because the school library had a checkout limit of three books, but I told the librarian I was doing a project on princesses. Okay, the project was a reading marathon, but she went for it.
There were other developments in my growth as a reader than I can point to. My friend Jennie introduced me to Madeline L'Engle, Jane Austen, and Neville Shute. (I think I was already of Jane Eyre, but she nonetheless gave me a copy of it which I still have.) My friend Karen introduced me to the Anne of Green Gables series as well as Sweet Valley High, and if I have a greater appreciation for L. M. Montgomery now than I do for Francine Pascal, it doesn't take away from the place that Pascal filled.
I am still pretty much that girl who wants to read all the stories. (I did read extra chapters in college textbooks. Sometimes the professor really had a point in not assigning them, but I had to find out the hard way.) I am not ruling out that some day I will purchase the entire Keys to Reading series that my grade school used, so I can read the books I missed. For now, I'm not exactly short on reading material.
It makes sense, though, that when I am thinking about something and want to know more about it, my first thought is to find books on the subject. Possibly, I will find lots of books. I want all the knowledge, and so I want all the books.
At the same time, it bothers me recently seeing discussions about reading programs that actually made children dislike reading. What a horrible thing to do to a child.
I believe the discussion started with the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter campaign. One reason the series was originally canceled was a decision to concentrate on fundamentals of reading. The "Reading Rainbow" series was emphasizing a love for reading, not the skills. I won't deny the skills are important, but the love seems to help those skills come along.
Books are the closest things we have to time machines and teleportation devices. The can fill us with empathy and spark passion. They need to be something we are sharing, but it seems that we are slacking off. I'll pick that thread back up tomorrow.