Becoming a Reader
One snowy day in Elementary School I was in trouble for something (Talking in class? Getting out of my seat? Not paying attention?) and my punishment was to spend the hour inside quietly in the Library while my friends played outdoors. This short-sighted attempt to teach me a lesson ended up having unexpected consequences. As I wandered around the the stacks of books that day, I stumbled upon a small private nook that housed a phonograph and small collection of records. Hidden in between the classical music and Sesame Street records was a collection that included the entire Beatles collection (gasp!), a Beach Boys double album, two albums by Kiss (Wow!!), and a bunch of Greatest Hits records by artists like Elton John and Jim Croce.
The moment I sat down to that record player with headphones on and dropped the needle down I was hooked on music, a passion I have pursued in one form or another for my entire life.
Looking back, I also realize that was the time of my life I started reading...a lot. I read lyrics from the sleeves of albums as I listened, trying to understand the words to my favorite songs. I read the album credits to learn who was in each band, who had written the songs, and who sang and played what instrument. I figured out where cities like Liverpool and Memphis were. I scoured the library for books about the music and musicians, and asked for subscriptions to music magazines. I was immersed and engaged in a world of music and words. Finding that library record player changed me from someone who “knew how to read” into a “reader”.
Perhaps this happened to you as well at some time. You might have developed a passion for reading comic books or graphic novels. Maybe reading books offered your first chance to find tranquility in a hectic house full of brothers and sisters. Perhaps you loved to follow along with your grandmother or grandfather’s recipes as they cooked. Some of you may have wanted to follow the news about your favorite sports team or athlete. I know that many of our students, like so many young people before them, have been captivated by a writer’s ability to transport us to magical and fantastical places like Narnia, Terabithia,and Hogwarts.
I think we all probably have a time when reading became the vehicle through which we started to achieve something important in our lives, when reading allowed us to fully develop our passions and interests in life. I am increasingly fascinated with the idea that life is filled with these moments when we take skills we have acquired (be they in reading, writing, mathematics, science, or the arts) and use those skills to transport us from someone who “knows how” to do something into someone who is a fully engaged practitioner of those skills. I think we become something new and exciting in those moments, and we achieve a sort of transcendence. For me, these are the times I feel most alive and present in life.
How about you? What led you to become a reader?