Monday, January 9, 2012

Take a look, it's in a book

I am not sure if I have ever mentioned it here or not, but when I was young I couldn't read. I know most little kids can not read. I was in third grade I think before I really ever learned how to read.

I was really slow at learning the whole reading thing. I would do fine with most individual words but my brain could never wrap around the concept of forming individual words into sentences and paragraphs, which is what reading is all about. I especially had problems with the concept of the word 'the'. Do you realize what an important word 'the' is?

After spending most of second grade in remedial reading group I all but gave up. By the way I get the idea of making the slow readers work together so that the fast readers don't get frustrated with having to sit through kids struggling with 'See Dick run' while they have already mastered Dr Suess and left him in the dust. Let me just tell you though, as one of the slow kids, it is incredibly demeaning, frustrating, and discouraging to be pushed out into the hall because you can not read and knowing all your classmates now think you are stupid. I digress...

So with the fear that I would never read firm in my mothers mind she found me a private tutor. The woman was brilliant as far as I can remember. She was also my piano teacher, which is primarily what I remember of her, but I vaguely recall the reading tutoring as well. There was bingo and silly putty involved, but I am not sure how or why.

In the end I could read, and it was bittersweet. My brother could read since he was like 3. He was reading books that high school students struggled with when he was in 3rd grade. It was one of those things people talked about all the time. My brother was so gifted and I was not. Sort of discouraged me from doing a lot of reading once I had learned. Plus I was a very very painfully slow reader.

Eventually around the beginning of 5th grade I discovered R.L. Stein and the Fear Street series. Young adult horror fiction in general became a bit of an obsession for  me. I loved it. It took me two weeks to finish a book most kids read in two days, but I didn't care. I wanted more.

My mother was thrilled. She didn't really care what kind of trash I was reading as long as I was reading voluntarily. Well no that isn't true, she still wanted me to read things that were good literature. We made a deal that for every two or three of my books I read I had to read one book of my brothers choosing. This way I was reading stuff outside of required school books and outside of trashy teen horror fiction.

My brother started me off with things like Island of the Blue Dolphin, My Side of the Mountain, Call of the Wild, and Julie of the Wolves. In school I was working on Where the Red Fern Grows, and after I completed that he decided I was ready for heavier books. He had me reading Lord of the Flies in 8th grade because he knew I would eventually have to read it for class.

Somewhere between Where the Red Fern Grows and Lord of the Flies I got hooked on reading outside my comfort zone. The first book I asked my mom to buy me that wasn't a teen horror fiction and not a recommendation of my brother was Little Women. I don't think she was ever happier to buy me a book in her life.

After that I was in love with books. I read all sorts of things; from trashy fantasy smut to biographies to everything in between. I am still an incredibly slow reader though so I don't put back many books. I have trouble finding time to read really. I can't read anything too consuming before bed or I won't sleep. So I find an hour here or there to pick up a book, but because I can only manage about 30 to 40 pages an hour, I don't typically get too far.

Right now I have a stack of books that I am meaning to read. I know there are more than 20 of them that I already own, and probably that many on my wish list still. I am not certain how long it will take me to finish them, but I do know I am not going to stop trying.

It took me a long time to get here, and I might not be the fastest horse in the race, but I will finish none the less. I will finish and I will enjoy every word that gets me there.

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