Let me tell you a story about me. When I was nine or ten years old I had a really, really bad summer. It started out well enough for any pre-teen girl. I played inside and played outside – typical kid. Then I went on my family’s annual vacation to my grandparents’ summer cottage in northwestern Pennsylvania.
That’s where my summer turned bad. I fell of my grandparents’ boat while it was docked.
No big deal.
I remember being cold and dizzy after that fall, and just wanting to sit down. Before I got to though, my dad went into full-on dad-panic mode. Apparently I had managed to suffer a severe bone-deep gash to my left leg and was losing a lot of blood quickly. The ambulance got lost on the way to our rural location. I remember nothing of the ride in the ambulance, but I do remember that the doctor who stitched me up wasn’t a surgeon and that bothered me.
I spent the rest of the vacation bed-ridden in a dark cabin. I couldn’t sleep in awesome attic because I couldn’t climb the ladder. I spent most of my time on the couch with a perfect view of the lake and everyone having a great time, while all I was allowed to do was watch “Bear in the Big Blue House” or the Weather Channel. It was traumatizing.
Miraculously I survived the rather vacation-ruining event. I couldn’t walk for a few weeks at all, then endured crutches for the remainder of the summer. Today I still have a bright pink 4″ long scar on my left leg, which experiences phantom pains every time that I think about it.
But what this experience taught me (other than an extreme fear of boats, rural locations, and ruined vacations) was to love reading. You see, I couldn’t walk for a few weeks. Worse, I was too old for and hated “Bear in the Big Blue House.” I had the riveting choice of watching the weather for hours or reading a book. I chose to read. (I hated to read, but my parents picked out a book for me about horses and I loved horses.) I think I labored through two or three books that entire summer. I know I read those books more than once, because I just didn’t follow what they were trying to say.
By the end of the next school year, I won a reading competition at my school.
The next summer I borrowed twenty books from the library every two weeks, and I have been an avid reader ever since.
Besides earning a big pink scar on my leg, that really bad summer taught me something invaluable. I learned to read. I learned to read books because I enjoyed what was on their pages. Before I had only read books because it was required. No longer did I have to read Dr. Seuss or the literature anthologies from school, but I could read books about things that interested me. I was enthralled with series like the Saddle Club, Nancy Drew, Mandie, every single book published by the American Girl Company, and my favorite, the Dear America series. Almost every book that I enjoyed was part of a series with a female lead and had a problem to be solved. I found books that interested me.
That summer was horrible. I remember that distinctly. But the results of a horrible summer – reading – turned into one of my most cherished aspects of life.
If you have a student or a child who hates to read, remember that reading might not be the problem. The problem may simply be the books that they are reading. Because of my own experiences, I am a fierce advocate of the idea that there is a book out there for every reader. They just need to find it.
Today I read mostly history-related books because I just love history. I also have a secret passion for 1800s British literature (Wilkie Collins… woop woop!!!).
Find a book that child will enjoy. They are going to have to try many books, but there is a book out there. Take it from the girl who used to hate to read.
PS – I read 53 books in 2016.