Time is the best story teller. Only after it’s passed can you go back over the scenes of your life and understand how they cobbled together to give you a point of view.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where reading was important. Sundays were often spent snuggled beside my mother as we read. By the time I was a teen, we’d exchange books and have our own little book talks. She most definitely instilled a love of reading. But – and I’ll refrain from ranting – once children reach school-age, the politics of education get in the way. Educators and librarians have a tough hill to climb to keep reading fun. Today, I salute those who find a way. Specifically, my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Crowner who served as someone who supported me as an early reader.
My elementary school library was small. Like many other school libraries, it was divided into sections. As a second grader, my section was primarily picture books and easy reader chapter books. I had my eye on the “fifth grade” section pretty early on. The books were invitingly thick. Alas, no 2nd graders allowed.
One day, during our library visit, I boldly ventured into the area, curious. Honestly, it felt taboo. I’m surprised alarms didn’t go off. I found a book, bigger than me, and decided I wanted to read it. The librarian was skeptical, this huge tome with a winged horse on it (and I honestly can’t recall the title or author) was clearly not from my section. Still, something compelled her to let me check it out.
During reading time I eagerly opened the book, ready to dive in. Mrs. Crowner was making her rounds. When she got to me, she paused. I have no idea what she might have been thinking or what teacherly rules she must have mentally gone through to see which one I was breaking. I felt her standing behind me, looking over my shoulder. I was afraid she was ready to take away my treasure. The book was obviously too big to have come from the proper section. I’d been caught.
Was her pause attached to the book? Or to me, as the reader?
I’ll never know for sure. What I’m certain of is that she took a second to see a child immersed in a book and she decided to dive deeper into that immersion rather than pull me out. She asked was I enjoying the book? After confirming that I was she asked did I understand it? I was in the very early stages, so there wasn’t much to understand yet – but even at seven years old I knew an interrogation (albeit a gentle one) when I heard one. So, naturally, I said yes. Her eyes gazed on the page again, she nodded and moved on.
That was a pinnacle moment in my life because it reinforced that books were to enjoy. Having a teacher, someone with great influence over what I read, support that objective was a brick in my reading foundation. Because of that, reading has continued to be primarily about pleasure for me. I don’t know any other way to view books. Maybe it’s why there are so many required reading books I dislike – too many of them I simply didn’t enjoy. It’s also why my objective, as an author, is to remind kids that there are far too many books out there for them to dislike reading. They just haven’t found the type of book they like. And they won’t without someone there to support that quest.
As authors, librarians, teachers, bloggers, or reviewers: keep in mind how easily you can turn off a reader when forcing your own baggage onto them. Yes, we can learn from books. And all content isn’t for all readers. But when a child is curious enough to venture, adults must nurture that curiosity.
Paula Chase hasn’t slept in eleven years. She also feels like people are speaking a foreign language when they use the term “free time.” Her awake hours are spent split between her work with a municipal association, mothering two, wife of one, and authoring MG and YA books. She is a co-founder of The Brown Bookshelf and can be found on Twitter @paulachase or at www.paulachasebooks.com