The other day I sat down to read Dog man by Dav Pilkey and after I read it, I began to think about how much I enjoyed Dav Pilkey’s books when I was in third grade, and that led me thinking about who I was as a reading growing up, and now as an adult.
I remember the time when I was staying over at my best friend William’s, we were in the clubhouse and he had brought some of Captain Underpants books up there. I stayed up way late to finish reading Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space (still one of my favorites). By this point, William was fast asleep and I was pulled into the world of Harold and George and their quest to save their school! I couldn’t put it down, I had to finish it!
When I was a young child, my mother took me to the library at least once a week and I always had a preference for “feel-good” stories, especially Apple Juice Tea and White Rabit’s colors. I managed to check these books out at least every other week, I liked other books, but these two managed to always make it into my stack. I never had any restrictions by my parents or other adults as to what I could take out of the library, I was free to roam and gather whatever I could get my hands on. I should mention too that I had quite the Berenstain Bear’s collection at home that I read religiously (probably more than my bible!) I am happy to say that same collection is delighting my own students in my classroom today.
My parents delighted me in the magic of audiobooks and we listened to several of them on the road when we were traveling across the country. I fondly remember “Monster of the Month Club, The toothpaste millionaire, Fig Pudding, The Henry/Ramona series”, to name a few.
I started enjoying beginning chapter books in third grade, thanks to my teacher, I became quite fond of Junie B. Jones.
As I grew older we still regularly went to the library, it was one of my favorite places to be (and still is). I started expanding my horizons in the library and branched out into non-fiction, specifically in the “grown-ups” section. I would quite often take out these wonderful books filled with lighting styles of different houses like these here:
I would also read how to transform your backyard into a lush garden with a pond (possible minor obsession when I was around 9) I had even dug a huge hole, I was ready to go!
When I was in 5th grade I had just started playing “The Sims” and OH MY I can’t begin to tell you how obsessed I became with that game (it was probably borderline unhealthy). I also used the library to help me with this game, I would check out floorplan books and draw them on grid paper and construct them in The Sims.
I guess I was intent on becoming an interior designer, pond builder, and home builder extraordinaire!
I checked out whatever I could get my hands on, and I let my interests guide me all over the library. I never was restricted by any means (except my library check-out limit). I never knew my reading level, and I was never told that I could only read certain books, which is why I would check out books from the adult section, because in my mind as a child, books are for everyone! In the library, I was free to be a wild, and wide reader.
It was in 5th grade that I remember falling in love with my first novel, Abel’s Island. Our teacher had us create our own book study and we could choose from several books. I didn’t know much about the book when I was choosing, but when I read it I was captivated by the adventure of the story. It is still one of my favorites today.
In my middle school years, I lost touch with reading and my only reading those years were the mostly boring “whole class novels”. I didn’t have anyone to show me books that were written for middle schoolers, and to be quite honest I didn’t know at the time that books for middle school students existed. In the public libraries, and most that I have visited, middle-grade books are mixed in with the children’s section. I no longer identified as a “child”, and subsequently, I left the children’s section of the library. But I didn’t have a new section to go to, so I left reading behind for a bit. I wish that middle schoolers could have their own section or shelf of the library.
I still used the library as I entered high school, but I still wasn’t the avid reader I had been, but that changed once I had a lot of free time to read. In 11th grade I got a job at a hotel cleaning at night, and the cleaning only took me an hour so I had several hours on my shift I could sit in the laundry room and do nothing, so I decided to pick up some books from the library. At this time I had this sudden fascination with books that were emotionally intense, and books in which characters would die. Several books that I read were: Mick Harte was here, The Rules of Survival, A Summer to Die, Twisted, Zach’s lie. I don’t know what drew me to these books, but they satisfied a curiosity in me that left me bawling for hours. I was content. Books were mixed in age range, some were those middle-grade novels I could never find, and some in the newly discovered young adult section.
After discovering the young adult section in high school, I continued reading this genre well into college and after. As I became older and started college I had less time for reading, but I made time for it and read when I could, on the bus, between classes, lunch, etc. I did take a class on Children’s Literature and I enjoyed reading several books during this class I hadn’t read before such as Esperanza Rising, The Tale of Despereaux, Seedfolks, to name a few. The spark of reading was starting to revive. It was during this same time that I also had become a huge fan of Laurie Halse Anderson. I had read Twisted back in high school, and in college I discovered more of her work. Speak is one of my favorite books of all time.
After I graduated college I began teaching, I didn’t read as much as I wanted, and even though I continuously have always used the library, I didn’t feel like I loved reading like I once did. One day at work, I was passing through our school library in the Spring of 2015 and my librarian had told me about this great book The Book Whisperer By Donalyn Miller and how we can get our students reading more. I was intrigued. So I went to the library and checked it out. I read it in two days. I had more answers about how to get my students to love reading, but I also re-fell in love with reading myself, since that day I have been more of an avid reader, returning to my roots as a “wild reader”.
In my classroom, I strive to give my students the same reading experience I had so they may experience the world of reading. Some of my students don’t have access to the public library, so I bring the library experience to them! I give my students freedom to choose, time to read, and a well-stocked classroom library with books of all topics and readability. I do this because I want my students to see the magic of reading, and I hope one day they too, will stay up late “because I had this finish this book!”