I Love to Read Month: Finding Story Magic

EducationDuring “I Love to Read” month, or one of its variations around the globe, books are celebrated in schools, libraries and homes.  It’s a time when readers of all ages are encouraged to hunker down with books of every genre and variety.

It’s also a good time for us to reflect on our reading roots.  How and why did we become readers?  What books influenced us? What experiences elevated reading and made us, not just mere decoders of language, but partners in the process?

In my case, books and reading played a huge role in shaping the person I am now. Although I cannot recall being read to by my parents or siblings, I remember the first time a book totally transported me to another time and place. I was in grade 4.  The teacher – wise in the ways of keeping a restless group of children attentive – read a mystery novel to the class. I don’t recall the title or the author, but I remember the plot – a thrilling whodunit about a boy detective who solved a kidnap-murder case.  I hung on to every word and groaned with the rest of the class when the teacher closed the book at the end of each chapter.  Because of that experience, the seeds of story magic took root.

When I became a middle grade teacher – then later a parent – I followed my grade 4 teacher’s lead. I read to my students and my own children daily. From a literacy-development point of view, I knew it was the correct thing to do.  Numerous research studies espouse the benefits of reading aloud to youngsters, even to those of high school age, but – I can admit it now – boosting reading comprehension was never my primary motive. I simply wanted for my students and children, the same experience I had myself in grade 4 – the glorious out-of-body feeling of being one with a community of others, all lost together in a gripping story that defied time and place.

I read aloud from a diverse menu. The Giver by Lois Lowry for its perspectives on society gone astray…Jesper by Carol Matas for its portrayal of moral dilemmas in wartime Europe… Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, for a heart-searing Southern story about a boy and his two dogs, Old Dan and Little Ann…Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel so we could follow Shade, a silverwing bat, on his epic journey towards maturity.

Not every offering was a heavyweight.  Each year, with the approach of the holiday season, I carved time out of the busy day to read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. As one, we chuckled when sheep and shepherds ran amuck at the annual community production.  We high-fived one another later when it was averted.

Books have always played an important role in my life.  I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.  But what about you?  What books transformed you?  How?  Why?

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