My Nerdy Reading Habit: It’s All My Parents’ Fault by Jennifer D. Sniadecki
I don’t mean to place blame; they would probably deny it, but I am telling you, it’s all my parents’ fault.
My nerdy reading habit began before I could read by myself. Mom and Dad were readers. Dad came home from work each night and after we ate dinner, he would spread the newspaper out and read. My sister and I used to ask Mom what was in the paper, and she would tell us some of the main stories of the day. She also saved the color comics section on Sundays. We would “read” the pictures of Snoopy, and I even thought the guy from Doonesbury must resemble my Dad when he was at work. Mom gave us books as birthday presents. In the car, she played books on tape from the library while we ran to the grocery store. When my sister and I got into trouble, we could always have books sitting with us on the bed in our room. Mom encouraged reading; reading was the way to become intelligent. My parents were my first reading mentors, spreading the reading love. It’s all their fault I’m a nerdy reader.
My mom’s best friend, Jeannie, spent time pulling me into the reading world. When my sister and I were all bathed, PJ’d, and ready for bed, Jeannie would take us into the living room and read. My mom said she wasn’t an entertainer like Jeannie, and that’s why Jeannie read to us. It was true. Mom would only read one book for each child, and she didn’t do the voices. Jeannie did the voices! Jeannie read several books at a time, the favorites over and over, until she would say, “That’s all for tonight. You should go to bed. I have to get home.” My mom would then kiss us goodnight and we would stroll off to our room to sleep, dreaming of Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, and Snow White. That evil queen in Snow White scared me, though; I never ate an apple with spots on it after that story.
My mom allowed her friend to take the blame for my reading habit. Jeannie loved reading, and she read constantly. She told my mom that it was fun to read to kids, because they enjoyed the voices, but people in the office were stuffy suits who didn’t have a sense of humor. Mom smiled as Jeannie read to us – listening while washing dishes or folding laundry. Mom never actually said the words, “You should read a book,” but she provided ample opportunities to read. Jeannie knew that reading aloud was time well spent with kids.
My nerdy reading habit continued on Tuesdays when I was in preschool and kindergarten. The Allen County Bookmobile (a small bus set up like a library on wheels) parked at the Time Corners Shopping Center on Tuesdays. Mom would take us there before grocery shopping and allow us to get books. I’m pretty sure you could check out 4 books, because I remember Mom waiting on me – I couldn’t leave with less than 4 books, could I? Not a chance. I chose carefully. I did stick with favorites, but now I could read myself, so I had to practice. One challenging book – to find my zone – each week. Mom must have know about the “zone of proximal development.” Mom set the rules. It was her fault.
When I was about 10 years old, I was tired of reading chapter books, and Little House in the Prairie was too simple for me. I told my dad I was ready to read adult books, like him. He went over to the built-in bookshelf by the fireplace and chose a book for me to read. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was an accounting textbook he had from college. “Here you go. That’s an adult book.” As he handed it to me, I thought I saw him give my mom a strange glance. Did he think I couldn’t do it? I opened the first page. No pictures. Perfect. Small font. Yep, this was an adult book. I started reading. I got to the end of the first paragraph and had to ask Dad for help on several words. He explained that maybe accounting wasn’t for me right now, and I should go back to my own books that I liked reading. Little House on the Prairie became my favorite series. Dad must have known the rule about giving choice during independent reading time. It was his fault, too.
Now that I’m an adult reader, grandmother, and teacher, I continue to live with my nerdy reading habit. Most of the time, I read the newest picture books, middle school texts, and YA novels recommended to me by my current mentors at the Nerdy Book Club. My granddaughter loves it when I do the voices, especially for I Don’t Want to Be a Frog! (Yes, I read it over and over, until we are both tired.) Several times over the years, my students have persuaded me to add to my reading list, based on their favorites. Choice is the key to reading widely in middle school, and I encourage my students to read and talk about reading. I’ll never forget the day that a young man in my class almost ran into the classroom, “Mrs. S! I know this isn’t your genre, but you should read this!” (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) Another student the same year said, “You have to read Michael Vey. (Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25) I gave it 5 stars!”
I don’t mind my nerdy reading habit. I love reading, and books, and talking about reading. Reading is good for the soul. Reading is learning. Reading is FUN. But I’m telling you – it’s all my parents’ fault that I’m a nerdy reader. Thank you, Mom and Dad (and Jeannie!).
Jennifer Sniadecki is currently a sixth grade teacher and former literacy coach in South Bend, Indiana. She is an avid reader, and will read anything the Nerdy Book Club or her friends at Two Writing Teachers recommend. Jennifer can be found on Twitter, and contributes to #g2great chats for fun. Check out her posts at @jdsniadecki or on her blog, http://www.readingteacherwrites.com. Jennifer is currently working on a professional development proposal about using picture books in the middle school classroom, her most passionate work to date.