My Love for Reading: Going from a Non-Reader to a Book Nerd by Amy Ralph
As I sat down to write about my reading life my first thought was to reflect on how far I have come as a reader. Every member of the Nerdy Book Club loves reading and most of you have always loved it. Sadly, I can not say the same. When I was a child I was a non-reader who hated reading. I think this had a lot to do with the fact that I had ADHD. Whenever I picked up a book I found myself reading the same paragraph over and over again with no comprehension of what was going on in the story. This made reading a difficult and frustrating task that I only did when forced. Despite my hatred for reading, I have always had a love for collecting books.
My parents believed that reading was essential and they gave us many opportunities to access new books. My dad took my sister Sara and I to the library every week to check out books. Sara was the reader in the family so she could read pretty much anything. While she was collecting books from all over the library, I wandered to the non-fiction section. Non-fiction books were my favorite when I was a kid because I did not really have to read them. They had pictures for me to look at and captions that were short enough to keep my attention. I left the library every week with fifteen non-fiction books that I lost under my bed shortly after we came home from the library. When it was time to go back to the library, I spent thirty minutes looking for my books, and returned all of them after barely reading anything in them. I continued to struggle with my hatred for reading until I reached middle school.
By the time I reached the sixth grade, I had learned some techniques to help me improve my focus, but I was still not where I should be in reading. While my classmates were reading middle grades novels and young adult books, I was reading short chapter books and short stories. Some of my favorites included: The Bridge to Terabithia, Arabian Nights, and scary story books. I was ashamed to be reading books that were not on a middle school level so I hid the fact that I was reading at all. When people asked me what I was reading. I told them that I hated reading and that I was not reading anything. The only time I read at school was when my English teacher made me read in class. I continued to pretend I hated reading until I entered high school.
I first realized that I might actually be a reader when I read my first Shakespeare play. My 9th grade English teacher had us read Romeo and Juliet as a class. I was the only student who understood Shakespeare’s words so my teacher asked me to explain them. My love of Romeo and Juliet led to a reading binge of books filled with plays. I was a drama student in high school so I looked pretty cool carrying around my play books. Unfortunately, that was the only time I felt cool because I still felt out of place. All my classmates were reading YA novels and when I was not reading plays I was still reading kids books.
As I became an adult I continued to read the children’s books that I loved in hiding. I was hoping that I could just read what I wanted but, I discovered a hidden stigma from others. This stigma came from adults who did not understand my love of children’s books. By this point, I liked reading, and I took a book with me when I went out. Whenever I read in public, people would ask, “What are you reading?” When I handed them the book, they would say, “This is a kid’s book. Why are you reading this?” I felt embarrassed, and allowed this hidden stigma to dictate what I read. I decided that in public I would read mystery novels by James Patterson and Mary Higgins Clark because they were what I considered to be interesting adult books. The only other books I read in public were the history books that I was reading for college. I continued to read my kids books in private. My world changed when I decided to become an educator.
When I became a teacher, I saw coworkers reading the books I liked. They read picture books, short stories, short chapter books, and plays to their students. I realized that it did not matter what I read as long as I read. I did not need to worry about what other people thought about my reading choices. I simply needed to pick up a book and read it. I could not believe that I had lost the simple joy of picking out a book and reading it because I wanted to. I promised myself that I would read what I wanted to from that point on, and I have kept that promise. Looking back over my life as a reader, I can’t believe how far I have come. I have gone from a non-reader as a child, to a reader who was embarrassed about her reading choices, and now to a person who reads all the time. I have read twenty books in two months. Books that are not on my reading level. Books that are for kids, but books that I love. So, as I devour every word of my beloved children’s books, I am proud to say that I have become a book nerd.
Amy Ralph is a School Media Coordinator in North Carolina. She has dedicated her life to educating children. Amy lives in Kernersville, NC with her husband, Oren, dog, Jules, and snapping turtle, Snappy. She blogs about educational issues and books at https://thehisolibrarian.wordpress.com/ She also enjoys networking with other educators on Twitter. Her Twitter handle is @lehmanac if you would like to contact her.