I first read this phrase as a blog post over on the Book Whisperer’s blog. She talked about how everybody has a story about how they came to reading. (Or even, as I thought at the time, a story about how or why they didn’t come to reading. These stories, I suspect, may be even more interesting.) But anyway, the Book Whisperer asked people to share their stories. I loved reading everyone’s responses. And, of course, I also got to thinking about my own reading story. It goes as follows:
I first came to reading at midnight—with a newspaper and a bowl of cherries.
I was very young, still wearing diapers at night, when I first became a reader. No, I wasn’t a child prodigy. I am simply the oldest child in my family, so when I was little, my dad was still in medical school. He’d come home at night, way late, exhausted from his rounds at the hospital. And every night, my mom would have dinner—and me—waiting for him.
My dad would eat, then he’d retreat to the scratchy olive green plaid couch in the living room. And I’d scramble up next to him. We’d wedge a bowl of cherries between us, and then, with a waft of ink and a slight breeze on my face, my dad would flick open the newspaper. That simple twitch of his wrist would seal us off from the rest of the world, in a place where just the two of us existed, snuggling and snacking on those red-black cherries.
I don’t remember my dad reading to me as he looked at the paper. Most likely he didn’t. After all, it’s hard to read aloud when you’re spitting out cherry pits. All I remember is knowing that if I kept quiet and pretended like I was reading, too, I’d get to stay up later. And snuggle longer. And eat more cherries. Already, I knew that reading was something so significant, so special and so…juicy, it broke all the normal rules.
Eventually, our late nights had an effect on me. Besides needing a good, long nap each day at most other people’s dinner time, I knew something else about reading and me. I had sat there long enough, watching my dad and staring at the black and white columns of the newspaper, that I felt like I was reading, too—just as much as my dad was.
And that’s how, years before I actually learned to read a word, I became a reader. Because knowing you are a reader counts much more in a person’s “reading story” than word decoding skills, comprehension scores, or lexile levels. I knew that reading was important. And I knew that reading was something I did. And with that, my little preschooler brain was primed for future reading adventures.
My reading story. A bowl of fruit, current events, and my reader dad—way, way past any kid’s normal bedtime.
(cherries picture thanks to IH on Flickr Creative Commons)