I love to read. I read more than anyone I know, and I have since I was old enough to figure out how to. I was a quiet kid, with a chaotic home life and not a lot of control over anything. But when I realized that I could pick up a book and disappear into a world that was entirely my own… it was one of those most significant things that ever happened to me. I distinctly remember walking into the school library at Roosevelt School (handily placed directly across from my fourth grade classroom) and seeing ALL.THOSE.BOOKS. All there for me to read. Just waiting for me. I took every opportunity to slip across the hall (and will forever be grateful to Mrs. Seymour who let me go several times a week).
Reading is my thing. Despite the fact that my mother isn’t a reader. My grandfather was, and that played into it. He was staggeringly intellectual, and knew more about history and geology and science and literature than I thought was possible. I wanted to be just like him. He got me National Geographic Magazine subscriptions when I was eight years old, because he didn’t think much of the Sweet Valley High books that I loved. He brought me to observatories and star gazing, and to every museum in New England (Did you know that there is a clock museum? And a whole building somewhere devoted to canoes?)
My point is that I loved reading from the time I was a kid, and I hoped that my children would also fall in love with reading. I happily accepted all the hand-me-down books that were offered, and traipsed them all to the library every week. I found the quietest sections and would nurse my babies there, I made friends with the librarians, and encouraged my kids to talk to them when they were looking for a specific type of book. Our house is riddled with books, I’ve got overflowing bookshelves, a make-shift library set up in the living room (because Julie likes to take the books off the shelf and restack them and then demands that we come check out books to read to her).
I’ve learned not to push books on Jessie – she’s a very different type of reader than I am. I read everything, indiscriminately, and I read fast. Jessica reads slowly, thoughtfully. She likes to live with a book for a few weeks, similar to the way her dad reads. Very thoroughly. But I push, a little, still. I recognize that I can’t really help myself from trying to get her to read books I loved, or new books that I’d love if I were her age. She latches on to a small percentage of the books I shove at her, but she’s always got one with her now. She makes sure that she’s got one in her bag for school, one in her lunchbox, and one to read before bed.
Sam is just learning how to read. He’s stronger in math, more confident. I push him to read as well, but struggled with finding a subject that really spoke to him. He could read the easy reader books, but, honestly, a lot of them aren’t all that interesting. So he’d do it, but it wasn’t generally his first choice as an activity. Then I stumbled across the book Sam the Minuteman at the library. I grabbed just because of the title – and my little guy fell in love. I started reading it with him, and had to go deal with Julie in the middle of it, and he went ahead and finished it on his own.
Sam’s very into soldiers and war. He wants very much to grow up to be an “army guy” and it scares the hell out of me. But I know that he loves this subject, and when I was book shopping last night, I bought him two more books about it. It occurred to me that it’s not about encouraging him in signing up for the army when he’s eighteen – what I’m doing is encouraging him in his desire to learn about history and drama and great stories. Because in the end, that’s what reading is for me. It’s been a lifeline on more than one occasion, it’s my coping mechanism and one of the bigger parts of my identity. I read. And if I can encourage that in my son, if I can show him that reading can be that for him – then I’ll get all the soldier and fighting and war books I can, because that’s what he likes.
Even if it totally freaks me out.