So, I’ve been thinking about reading and kids, my school kids and my personal kids.
I have to say I love seeing kids read. LOVE IT. A LOT. Watching my son or daughter read, seeing them engrossed, it just melts my heart, every time. My kids are not new to reading. Even before they could read to themselves, they loved to have books read to them. (Learning to read was not easy for everyone at my house.) We still read out loud as a family, although not that often anymore. Each kid has favorite picture books and chapter books which stay in special piles. And yet there are times when reading just doesn’t happen for a while, and sometimes I get nervous about it. But, I try to keep some perspective about the bigger picture of their reading life. I know that books are part of our family and our house.
I love seeing my school kids read too. Unfortunately I don’t really get to watch them read much. Plus, it can get a little creepy, me just staring at kids who are not mine, really. They mostly do, or don’t do, the reading at home and we talk about it at school. I would like to make more time for reading in class and know more about my students’ reading selves and lives. The other day we had a chance to read quietly in class. One student said we’d been reading for a long time (it had been 15 minutes), but most of the students settled in just fine. There’s something about reading in community (a silent, individual and communal activity) that feels different than reading alone; it’s nice to have the group there sometimes.
I think a person’s reading life is a tidal, and that’s ok. If the tide is out at the moment, it’s not permanent. For me, the tide was out for a lot my high school and college years. I did not really read much that wasn’t assigned. Who had the time? I had school work, sports, activities, and some friends, and that was nothing compared to how busy some students are today. The tide came back in once I was out of school. I found big categories of books that I had never read before, but were hugely interesting to me (women pioneer memoirs–can’t get enough of them). I found authors I enjoyed and read through their works back to back to back.
And then the tide went out again. I had a kid and then another. Between the reading I needed to do to teach and the time I spent with my kids, my reading time was limited. A long New Yorker article was more my speed. But, I also read a lot of great picture books and found that there was an entire universe of books I had not thought about in years. There are the silly ones, but there are scores of beautiful, powerful, poignant, picture books out there, many of which now live in our house. These are books to read again and again.
When the tide came in again, I kept some of my previous interests for sure, but added others. I started reading a lot of food related titles, more essay collections, and added titles that my students were reading (which meant middle grade books for a long time). When I moved to the Upper School, I got to walk through the library all the time. I could check out all sorts of new fiction that came in and was prominently displayed. As I began teaching 9th grade English, I went on a Nigerian female author bender as I looked for a book to compliment Things Fall Apart. And, in an attempt to broaden my reading palette, I have added graphic novels to my reading diet, which I wrote about recently.
There are huge gaps in my reading history. Oh well. There are also huge gaps in my exercising history. These things happen. I guess my hope is that I can find a way to support my kids’, both school and personal, in their reading so that they do not necessarily have a big span of years when the tide is out on reading. But if they do, and I
suspect know many of them will, I hope they remember that this break is not permanent. The books they used to like will still be there and new titles will be waiting to be discovered.