Sunday, September 13, 2009

First Books

I don't remember learning how to read.  I figure I can't remember because either (1) I was a young reader and, thus, too young to form memories of the process; (2) I simply lost track of that particular set of memories (i.e., I forgot); or (3) I let go of the memories because being able to read was much more important to me than remembering the process of getting there (highly related to Hypothesis 2).  I may never find the answer because no one else remembers when I learned to read, either.  When I flip back through my rolodex of memories, I am a reader even in the earliest ones.  As a young reader, I got attached to certain books; by "attached," I mean every time I reached for a book, I'd reach for one of a select few.  Sure, I'd branch out every now and then, but I had a very special place in my heart/life for my favorites.

Thinking back, the books I chose often featured animals, and I especially loved the books that had not-so-typical animals in them.  Danny and his dinosaur taught me that I could dream about having pets beyond dogs, so I started believing it was possible for me to someday be the proud owner of a bear.  And not just any bear, but a polar bear.  I never thought through how I'd go about getting the bear or what I'd do once I got it, but I was sure that when I grew up, I'd be able to call a bear my own.  Morris taught me that moose were capable of being excellent first graders, making me realize that I didn't need live students to play teacher.  My stuffed animals became my students, much to their delight.

Yet the book that was (and still is) "nearest and dearest" to my childhood heart is Mercer Mayer's Just for You.  The whimsical illustrations... The easy-to-love little critter that tries so hard... The little spider and grasshopper that appear on every page...  I loved it all.

I had a cassette that went along with the book, and I spent countless hours in my bedroom during the summer months listening to the book on tape while flipping through the pages and following along.  Maybe that's how I learned to read...  I must have read Just for You thousands of times while sitting on the floor of my room.

My lesson?  I held on to books for my own reasons, and I am learning that when I read with my son, he needs to be the one picking the books he holds "near and dear."  Even though I get tired of reading the same books to him over and over and over and over again, I have to remember that I did the same as a child.  And I can't imagine the heartbreak I would have felt had my parents ever told me, "You've read Just for You one too many times.  It's time to move on to a new book."  I might never have realized the full potential of reading in my life if I had not been able to foster those relationships/attachments to books.  So to anyone out there who inwardly groans when a child picks that book once again, keep in mind that by playing along, you just might be helping to foster the growth of a young child's love for books.  Tonight when my son reaches for The Good Knight, The Five Super Senses Save the Day, or one of his other favorites, I will smile and summon up all the energy I can to read whatever book he has chosen for the hundredth time.

Happy reading!

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