In the June/July 2013 issue of Reading Today, we are introduced to the current President of the IRA, Maureen McLaughlin. In her first presidential column, she asks us to consider our literary history and shares with us her own. As I read through her column, I began to reflect on my own literary history. What were my experiences and memories? In what way did they shape the reader I became? What did I learn from it?
My earliest memories of reading were of the cereal box and of reading books we had at our house. My mother was a stay-at-home mom and was very involved as a reader-herself (would get lost and take hours to return) and in getting us to be readers. My mother was also a big advocate and member of LaLeche League, so we had numerous stories on breastfeeding and on natural ways of living (this influenced me later in life). My favorite book as a young child was anything with the Bernstein Bears in it.
As I entered school, reading was a breeze for me and I was always put into the "high" group. In class, I always raised my hand to read round robin style. I enjoyed being read to, but not all teachers did. The ones that did were my favorites.
In middle school, my 5th grade teacher read The Blue Man. My class could not wait for this part of our day and the suspense nearly killed us. I began to fall in love with Anne of Green Gables and all the books in that series. My 8th grade teacher required numerous pages of chosen books to be read for an A, and I always exceeded the requirement. Reading was pleasurable.
Enter HS and college and things start to fall apart. I became that dependent reader who only read what was assigned, not for pleasure. Reading textbook after textbook didn't allow much time or leave me any interest in reading anymore. (I currently see this as a big problem in with kids this age. I am encouraged by my PLN on Twitter that independent, choice reading can, and should, still occur in this age group.)
I was reintroduced, during my second stint in college, to children's books through the requirements of my children's lit class. I was hooked once again. Then I began having children and a whole other door opened with the reading of board and wordless books to my children.
Move to the present and part of my day involves teaching middle school reading. My summer has been spent on reading YA books and picture books. My husband asked what I get from reading all those books. I quoted Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer (Jen Robenson) and said, "It keeps my imagination active, sets an example for the children in my life and will strengthen the relationships with the children I teach who read." He was satisfied.
Books are a huge part of my family. I have a 6 and a 3 year old, who my husband and I read nightly to. We take weekly trips to load up our book bags from the library, my husband & I read our share of magazines, newspapers, blogs and articles, and I am always on the lookout for new titles to introduce to my children.
I guess my literary history started well, had a dip in interest for a few years and is gaining strength. I can only hope I keep progressing.