Sunday, August 10, 2014

Confessions: Not Born Reading, A Reluctant Bookworm's Tale

Confessions of an Insomniac Book Devourer #9

I wasn't always a reader.

It took me longer than the average child to learn to read- so much time, that the principal of my school had a serious conversation with my mother about it, saying I might never learn. My recollection of that time in my life is surprisingly vivid- I remember having multiple eye exams and sitting at the "extra help needed" table for kids who didn't learn as well. The main problem with my learning wasn't a learning disability or visual disorder, but that I felt relatively uninspired to put forward the effort and learn how to read, as well as the fact my teacher was busy with other kids. I was somewhat of a shadow, due to the fact I was demonstrably shy.

The funny thing about memory is, I have no recollection of the 'aha' moment of learning to read. I don't even remember if my teacher brought it about, or someone else. What I remember is slowly learning to read a word at a time, and that I was suddenly able to play Pokemon. Pokemon is probably why the next year, I was an exceptional student. Although we did have many kid books in the house, I was never really interested in reading by myself (I always wanted someone to read to me), but with Pokemon (the original versions for the GameBoy) I was forced to read by myself, and learn words that aren't difficult, but necessary to complete sentences. My mother also taught me how to sound out words, and I was able to be pretty good at reading aloud. But books? I didn't read them for leisure, they had to be read to me.

The turning point for my reading life came in the 4th grade. I had a gem of a teacher who would give you extra credit for writing short stories. I haltingly wrote, but I wanted ideas to write about, so I turned to horse-centric books, like any good Montana girl. The first series I ever devoured were Unicorns of Balinor and then Heartland, because I was only able to procure the first three unicorn books at the local bookstore. Harry Potter came into my life later, mainly because he was banned in our house and I feared recrimination.

When I hear about people who were born reading, I feel slightly upset. Were they actually reading in the cradle? Did they read as much as I did when I finally became a library-card-carrying member of the bibliophile society? One of my best friends growing up was one of those chosen few. She learned to read before most of us. She was incredibly sad as a fifth grader when she found out how Sylvia Plath met her end. I am glad I stayed a kid (by reading kid books) for longer than she did, because I wouldn't have read Harry Potter if I hadn't.

So here's my confession: reading wasn't easy for me. It still isn't one of my easiest pastimes- watching tv and playing the Sims proves to be infinitely more effortless. I'm not new to reading, but I wasn't inseparable with books (carrying them about devotedly) until I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was twelve. Books weren't my universe, and they aren't even now: that's what dogs are for.

The magnificent and adorkable Keisha/Tippi Hendren. 
All kidding aside, my road to reading was hard fought, and paved with a plethora of books (and choice video games) that inspired me to be the accomplished devourer I am today. I'm not ashamed of my kid books, and am very glad I didn't read Sylvia Plath until my teen years. I wasn't a kid genius, but will always remember the day when someone asked: "Why do you read so many books?" was fifth grade, in case you're curious.

Were you a born reader? What books inspired you to read more?

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