I remember kindergarten vividly. I still speak to the teacher who gave me the love of education and gave me the idea of teaching one day myself; she lives in Africa, but she still visits our hometown when she can. When I was in kindergarten, there was an AM and PM class and it was not near as strenuous or rigorous in a sense of cramming so much down five-year olds’ throats as it is today. I absolutely loved it. Our teacher was loving and engaging and always had hands-on activities to do that went along with the letters she was teaching and the books she was reading. By Christmas I was in the group of students who were reading more on their own. There was no negative stigma to the group of children who were still learning letters and sounds. She never made anyone feel that they weren’t smart if they weren’t reading yet. She was wonderful at meeting us where we were and pushing us gently, not shoving us over the edge. My first “real” book that I could read on my own was The Night Before Christmasby Clement Moore. One of my favorite read alouds in her class was Where the Wild Things Are” I do not remember my mother reading to me often, simply because of the personal hell she was living in with my father, but she did her best (which continued to progress because she really did understand the value of education). The two books I recall her reading (and are books I read with my son as well) were There’s a Nightmare in My Closetby Mercer Mayer and Love You Foreverby Robert Munsch.
I continued to grow in my reading. It came naturally to me, even though I should have been a child who we would consider RTI nowadays. We were not dirt poor, but only because my mother worked three jobs. My parents did not divorce till I was thirteen, but prior to that my father was never home and was not a good man. My mother was very present in my life even though she worked often. She made sure we, my sisters and I, paid attention in class and got our work done. I enjoyed school, but the only books that stand out to me now were the Goosebumps series. By the time I was in fifth grade I had read most of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street novels. In fourth grade I remember reading Sarah, Plain and Tall, Island of the Blue Dolphins,and Snot Stew. My sixth-grade year I actually got to meet and have lunch with the author, Bill Wallace. He wrote the book Beautywhich is still a favorite of mine and causes me to cry every time. I have read all these books from my fourth-grade year with my own students. I do remember Hatchetfrom fifth grade and doing a book report over Hillary Clinton with a book from our school library, but I don’t remember much else from fifth grade. That was my worst year, as far as my education goes.
Junior High was fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Greek mythology. In eighth grade I remember reading The Hobbitand The Diary of Anne Franke. I enjoyed both. I hated history classes and did not like reading anything in any of those classes. In ninth-grade I read Romeo and Julietand Lord of the Flies. Again, I liked the readings for class, but I got really sick and was out of school, homebound for six weeks. I did not remember doing much outside reading other than what was assigned. I did get to choose a book for a book report and my step father told me to try to read Watchersby Dean Koontz since I loved thriller and horror movies and enjoyed spooky books. I loved that book so much! I have read it several times since, even. Although I remember making a good grade, my teacher didn’t care for my choice of literature.
This trend, of not reading much outside of class, continued into high school. I remember reading Death of a Salesman(and not liking it) and The Sun Also Rises(another book that I didn’t like). Some of the assigned readings I enjoyed were Great Gatsbyand Hamlet. I did read more of Dean Koontz and Stephen King when I could. I have read many of theirs and so many blur together of WHEN I read them. Rose Madderis intense, and I can read it over and over and never get tired of it. Odd Thomasis another great book. The ending made me bawl while on a trip in Colorado with my husband and friends. They thought something terrible had happened and didn’t understand how my tears could be for a fictional character.
In college I took many literature courses since my degree was 4-8 ELAR in education. Although difficult, my favorite courses were King Author Literature and Emmerson and Thoreau Literature. Both classes made me a little uncomfortable at first, but I grew to love them. They were different from my norm and opened my eyes to other ways books and stories and tales can affect you. I read many children’s books, but several I was already familiar with.
Currently, as an adult, I am still hooked on Koontz. But I do have my guilty pleasures with reading series such as Sookie Stackhouse, Twilightseries (I was hooked way before the movies were a thing), Pretty Little Liarsand The Hunger Games. I have reread these series multiple times and should probably find some other series like them to read. I still enjoy reading children’s literature since I am a writing teacher. Ms. Bixby’s Last Dayhas a special place in my heart. The Warden’s Daughterwas a book even my ten year old boys enjoyed and I finished, on the last day of school, Orphan Island(leaving my students something to write about this summer). In my spare time (which I don’t have a lot of), I am reading a memoir by Tara Westover called Educated. Completely eye opening as to someone my age who went through even more of a traumatic childhood than I could ever imagine in real life. I empathize with her so much with the way she was raised and the reasons she would have thoughts and feelings as she does because of her upbringing.
Books are powerful and can help us feel not so alone. I feel like my reading was standard with that of others my age, but I think as an adult I read more and a lot more often than most of my friends or colleagues. I enjoy being a reader and life-long learner and I try to pass that love on to my students. My sister teachers high school English and she says her kids hate reading. We have discussed that at some point, between them loving reading in third grade, they somehow begin to loathe it and then end up in her class not wanting to do it. I have moved up from third to fourth with my students and now will move up again to fifth grade. I went from being self-contained to writing. I have seen how some of my students have started slacking on reading. However, in my class I pull in reading when I can and my students flourish with it. I even have a book club (even though I’m not the reading teacher), because I want to continue to encourage them to enjoy reading.