The Late Bloomer’s Path to Becoming a Reader by Gigi McAllister

Unlike many teachers, growing up I was that quiet, painfully shy girl who never participated and lived in fear that everyone would find out that I was dumb.  I was the one who could not understand what I read because it was all just words to me.  Well I’m grown up now and I am really angry!


I have read many children’s book blogs to find new books for my students and to read inspirational stories.  Most of them are wonderfully positive stories describing people who were born with a silver book in their hand or were reading Little Women at age 5 and haven’t stopped since.  I am green with envy as I read about adults who grew up as voracious readers and how books helped influence and shape their lives.  I am so happy for them, but this was not my path.  My path to become a reader was paved with shame, disappointment and self-doubt.


Reading was not really part of my childhood.  Sure, I had to read in school, but I was reminded, by my constant failure, that I was not a good reader.  My teachers “demoted” me to the “low” reading group in what I assume was an attempt to help me, but it just made me feel more stupid.  I felt like they did not expect much of me and I lived up to those expectations.  I just didn’t get it.  I would try to read my little blue basal reader, but try as I might, it just didn’t click. No one ever showed me that books could be wonderful escapes and reading could actually be fun, NO ONE!


So what’s the big deal? I can obviously read now.  What did I really miss?


Well…A LOT!


I missed out on being a super sleuth with Nancy Drew or Harriet from Harrietthe Spy.  Ramona and I never got into trouble together in Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series and I never watched Charlotte save her friend Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web.  I also missed Judy Blume!  What was the early 80”s for a young girl without Judy Blume? Ok I did read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret  to see what the big deal was, but I missed out on sharing fears with Sheila Tubman in Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great.  I would have loved to hold hands with Mary Lenox in the pages of The Secret Garden. And traveling to Narnia with Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy in The Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis would have been amazing.  I could go on and on.


I did not become a reader until I started teaching in my early twenties..   When I understood what all the fuss was about, and realized what I had missed, I felt cheated


We teachers need to remember that yes, we need to teach skills and strategies like cause and effect, sequencing and author’s purpose.  But we must never forget that it is our ultimate job to inspire and help create lifelong readers.  So let’s keep the emphasis on the books!  I’m sure you can find at least one student just like me each year in your class.  Please show her (or him) that there is more to reading than just reading words.  Show your students that reading can entertain you, inspire you and change you…forever.



Gigi McAllister is a fourth grade teacher in Maine.  She lives with her husband and two adorable children.  She may be a late bloomer, but she is making up for lost time.  Gigi admits to being a children’s book addict and is thankful that her understanding and supportive husband does not get too upset about her monthly Amazon bill. Feel free to visit Gigi’s recently launched blog at