My Future and History of Reading

Bedtime for my three-year old has been a struggle lately. He sees his room as a prison and himself as wrongly oppressed prisoner that screams out at the authorities, and I quote, “I have to get out, let me out, you can’t do this to me, let me out, I hate you, I hate you!” My wife and I are quite happy that our doors are cheap because that kid is going to break his one of these nights. But that isn’t the focus of my post today.

After the pounding on the walls, the mad dashes out into the living room (followed by a chase around the couches) are all done and silence joins the night my wife and I will go in their rooms and tuck our sleeping munchkins in. This consists of picking them up off of the floor (there is a logic as to why they are down there), regular kisses on their dreaming noggins and pulling the covers back over them, but then we have to clean the books off of their beds.

And that makes me happy.

This is after they 'made' their beds/

This is after they ‘made’ their beds.

And I do mean books in the plural. My kids love books, they are like teddy bears (but not so freaky–another topic for another day), and my kids find comfort in having books around them. My seven-year old gobbles up her Junie B. Jones books now that she can read them by herself and my three-year old recites No David as he laughs at David Shannon’s childlike art. In the evening both of them will sneak out of their beds, slowly ease the doors to their rooms open and then read on the floor using the sliver of light from the hall to see their books until they zonk out (the reason why we pick the kids up off of the floor).

Yes, they are being disobedient and they think they are sticking it to ‘the man’, but little do they know that their form of rebellion makes me happy. My kids love books.

You might ask why this is a big deal. Might say, “Mike, you are a writer, you obviously read and seem to like it. So why wouldn’t your offspring like reading?”

Good question. I do love books, I love to read. I devour them like I would all-you-can-eat tacos. I held the record for the most pages read at my school for a couple of years. My parents would actually ground me from reading. So yeah, I would say I love to read.

But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, I hated, absolutely loathed books up until the third grade. Why? I couldn’t read them. Didn’t know how.

Now, you might think this was my parent’s fault. You would be wrong. Mom read to me a lot, Dad always had his own library and would usually escape into the bathroom to read. My sisters would read to me when I was really little (of course what they read didn’t always match what the book said). There was no lack of love for books in my home.

I really shouldn’t, but I blame my 1st grade teacher for my falling out with books. Here is the setting: My family moved to central Oregon from Texas, where we lived for last few years, years in which I learned to talk and picked up a Texan accent. My teacher, She Who Will Remain Nameless, was a very progressive woman who found my accent appalling, even quite offensive to her educated ways. It’s not like I used a severely limited or erroneous vocabulary, I just had a drawl in my voice. It must have been like fingernails on a chalkboard to her because when it was reading time she would cringe, put her hands on her hips and tell me I wasn’t reading the words right and that I wouldn’t move on from that book until I did.

Fast forward one month later and I was still reading that same stupid “see Spot run” book and the rest of the class was reading books with four or five words per sentence. I hated reading time, it was humiliating. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, I thought I was reading things correctly, but Miss Hands On Her Hips damned me to that one book.

So I gave up.

I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want anything to do with reading or books (unless they had cool pictures, and, no, pictures of a yellow-spotted dog were far from cool).

Fast forward again. New state, new home, new school, new school year and I am sitting in front of a multiple choice test based off of a few paragraphs. I took one look at that test, filled in ‘c’ on each question and proceeded to draw a volcano erupting, complete with lava burning up multiple dinosaurs.

Well, that test was a placement test and, to my parent’s horror, I was placed in the “This Kid Couldn’t Spell ‘O’ With A Whole Box of Cheerios” reading class. The teacher in that class was horrid. Her blatant display of polyester floral shirts was an over-stimulation that still haunts me. On top of that, she just wasn’t a nice lady. But who could blame her? Everyday she had an hour with the kids that had to learn how to read instead of go to P.E. and play games. The difference in that class? Everyone was on the same level of humiliation.

I would go home and just complain about that class. So my Mom started finding books that were fun, but would be a challenge. Those were ok, but then Mom let me read The Far Side cartoons by Gary Larson…

and then reading took on a whole new meaning for me.

Fast forward to my teen years. I was an insomniac. I had read all of the Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County, Far Side, and Garfield books that my family had numerous times. I needed something new to put me so sleep. That was when I discovered Piers Anthony, Raymond E. Feist, and David Eddings. I would often read a book a day, not because I couldn’t sleep, but because sleep deterred me from reading. That was about the time my parents started grounding me from books.

Fast forward to now and I am a book addict. My wife forbids me from going to bookstores without her there to monitor my acquisitions. And when I wake up in the morning I see one of two things: my wife’s beautiful face or this…

My Messy Bookcase

My Messy Bookcase (and that doesn’t count the tubs of books out in the garage)

I usually grump at my kids for their messes, but when I see books on their beds I smile and am grateful they love books and their future includes a lot of reading.

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