Wednesday, January 8, 2003

My Little Bookworm

By Bobbi Rightmyer
January 2003

When I was in the third grade, I was bit by the reading bug. I used to make countless trips to the school library, and even helped as a library aide just to be closer to the books. I had a hug appetite for reading, and I rarely went anywhere without a book in hand. A Wrinkle in time, The Narnia Chronicles, The Wizard of Oz, and Little Women, these were the staples of my reading itinerary as a child. As I’ve grown, my reading tastes have grown with me: from romance novels to horror to science fiction to historical fiction, each and every book has 100 pages to hook me before I give up on it. If I’m not hooked on the plot line after 100 pages, then I’m probably never going to enjoy the book.
When Amber and Marie were younger, I used to dream they would have my hunger for reading. I would read them bedtime stories, buy them books as gifts, and let them see me reading for fun. I’ve learned the hard way that if a child is not interested in something, the worst thing a parent can do is force the issue. The more I tried to get the girls to read for fun, the more they turned away from books completely. It was still “ok” for me to read to them, but they wanted nothing to do with reading themselves. As a single parent this really bothered me, because I knew their father was definitely not a reader. I didn’t want my girls to miss out on all the wonderful worlds books can open for a person.
When Christine was born, I again had high hopes that she would be a reader; after all, she had two parents who enjoyed reading instead of just one. So I began reading to her just like I did the older girls. Christine loved books and would carry one with her everywhere. She would sit engrossed in the story whenever I would read to her, and I could see her brain trying to picture the words in her mind. But when Christine started school, she had lots of trouble learning to read.
I couldn’t understand what the problem was; Amber and Marie learned to read without a problem. What was wrong with my last little girl? So, we worked with her at home, and with her teacher at school, but Christine was still having trouble sounding out words. Instead, she would memorize the words. When she would come to a word she didn’t know, you could see her mentally going through the file cabinet in her brain looking for the word. This continued all through kindergarten, first and second grades. Even though she was an excellent student, our whole family struggled with her “reading problem”.
The, when Christine entered third grade, something magical happened. For some unknown reason, at the beginning of third grade, Christine clicked with reading. Ill never forget the day she came racing home from the bus stop and yelled, “Mom, I read my library book all by myself!” That was it, from that point on, my bubbly, bouncy last child began her love affair with books.
Today, Christine is in the fifth grade and her appetite for books grows each day. Her room is full of books, from books she owns to books from the school library AND books from the public library. We make one, sometimes two trips to the Mercer County Public Library every week so she can check out enough books to get her through for several days. She has her own library bag that she and her best friends, Brooke and Levi Lewis, made one afternoon and she keeps her library card hooked to her bag for safe keeping; she keeps my card hooked there, too. Because of our trips to the library, Brooke and Levi have also become bookworms and this really excites me. I love to see kids reading.
I notice Christine’s taste in books changing every day. She started out just reading small chapter books, but now she has branched out to certain topics or authors. For example, she read a book by Beverly Cleary over this past summer, and since then she has been trying to read all the books by Ms. Cleary. She recently read a book about a cat, which she fell in love with, and then she found out there were three more books about the same cat. Of course, she had to find all three and read them. Christine has always read the comic strips her MaMaw saves for her every Sunday, so right now she is into comics. Garfield, Calvin and Hobbs, The Peanuts Gang and Pogo, these are just a few of the comic collections that she searches for in libraries and bookstores.
One of Christine’s newest interests is a series of books by a new author writing under the pen name, Lemony Snicket. His books, A Series of Unfortunate Events, have been climbing their way up the bestsellers’ lists for months. There is much controversy about these books because the main characters are three orphans who are moved around to different homes in every book. There is a mean villain out to steal the children’s inheritance, and because of him, nothing good ever happens to the children. Many objectors to the books say they are bad because nothing good happens, but I see the books in a different light. I see three children who persevere and never give up, even when things are going very bad for them, like in The Bad Beginning, the very first book of the series I also see an author who is trying to introduce vocabulary words to a new group of eager readers. Several times in each book the author will use an unusual word, but then he goes on to explain what the word means. I can see Christine’s vocabulary improving just from the mini lessons in these books.
Today, my youngest daughter is never anywhere without a book. She reads on the bus every morning and every afternoon; she even reads as she’s walking home from the bus top. She reads in the car, and if it happens to be dark, she has her own book light just so she can continue to read. She even reads at school before the morning bell rings, in between classes, and after she has finished her work. I now have a child who spends more time reading than she does watching television and that makes me very happy.
Now, if you'll excuse me, Christine is anxious to get to the library before they close.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, January 2003