Growing Up Gifted by Melissa Sears
I’m fairly convinced that the reason that I love reading so much is because my mom read to me all of the time when I was a kid. It amazes me that she did it because she doesn’t consider herself to be a highly intellectual person. The reason why she did it was because she loved me and she wanted me to enjoy reading and be a good reader. I’d say that’s a pretty smart for someone who thinks they aren’t intellectual.
I’m sure that my mother did not go out and read all of the research about why it is important to read to children from an early age, she just instinctively knew it. She knew that by reading to your kids, with your kids, and eventually listening to them read, they would become better readers. She also knew that surrounding us with books, either by taking us to the library often or using the last dollar that she had to buy us a book from the Scholastic book order, would make us want to read more. By doing all of these things, my mother opened up worlds of possibilities for me.
I know that doing this wasn’t always easy for her. I remember purposefully picking out the hardest tongue-twisting Dr. Seuss books just because I knew that she didn’t like to read those very much. I knew that she didn’t like those books because of the rolling of her eyes and sometimes even a small swear word. The unspoken rule was that if I picked it, she would read it, no matter what book it was.
We had this big green book that was called The Green Fairy Book, it was a collection of fairy tales and included the Brother’s Grimm story, Little One-eye, Little Two-eyes, and Little Three-eyes. I absolutely loved this story and made my mom read it over and over. It was a long story and I had heard it so many times that I knew it by heart. There were few times that my mother was extremely tired and would try to skip parts, but I caught her. Even though she was tired and really wanted to just get through it, she read it in its entirety, just for me. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was my reading role model. I am a reader because of her. I love reading because of her. I am a librarian because of her.
It took me a long time to realize the gift that my mother had given me and it came from a very strange source. I was a librarian for a K-12 school district for nine years. I always did story time for children in kindergarten, first and second grades. I also had several high school aides assigned to me for different periods each day. I noticed that a lot of my student aides liked to be in the elementary library with the kids helping instead of doing processing tasks, which is understandable. But I had one senior boy that always came in to listen to kindergarten story time. He would sit on the floor with the kindergarten students and listen to the story. Once in a while, he would ask them to be quiet and listen to the story. I always assumed that he did this because he liked being around kids. So one day, I said, “You must really like kids.”
He replied, “No, not really.”
This really surprised me so I said, “If you don’t like kids, why do you always sit with them and listen to the stories?”
He replied, “My parents didn’t really read to me growing up and I was kind of a naughty kid in elementary school and got kicked out of the library every time so I never got to listen to the stories. I’m not a very good reader, so I don’t really read. I sat in there one day and listened to you read and I really liked it so I just kept doing it.”
I literally had to walk away from him. I walked into my office, sat down at my desk and started to cry. A little while later, he knocked on the door and asked, “Are you upset with me because I don’t put away books or help out in the library at all?”
I started laughing and said, “Absolutely not.”
He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Then why are you crying?”
I said, “Because you just reminded me of the reason that I read to all of those kids every day.”
He replied, “Okay. Cool.”
I realized that day that my mom had given me a gift that not every parent gives their child… the love of reading. Knowing that has made me a better teacher and on those days that I don’t feel like reading a book because I have read that book so many times before, I think back to my mom and keep reading. I also think about that senior boy and realize that even though I’ve heard that book a bunch of times, it could be the first time for the student listening so I give it my all.
Melissa Sears is an Integration Specialist for Wasmer Elementary, an elementary school in Grand Island, NE. She has two boys, three cats, and an amazing mom. She loves to read and tries to get everyone in the school to love it too. She tweets as @gibookgal.