Reading felt like a chore, always something I had to do, nothing I was supposed to enjoy. The first memory I have of reading and writing was the Phonics tapes. Phonics tapes were these colorful cassette tapes that taught you the basics of language. Some of the tapes talked about grammar and punctuation, while others focused more on reading comprehension and writing. Even though the tapes were structured in a way that was supposed to appeal to younger audiences, I disliked them.
Every day I was supposed to spend half an hour on the tapes. This was the rule set by my mother to encourage me to do more reading activities. Those thirty minutes felt like an eternity following along with the tapes; Usually, I spent the time doodling on a piece of paper or imagining burning the recordings in a huge bonfire. The thought of destroying the tapes played out in my fantasies and made me feel less bored for the remaining minutes of my mandatory tape time. Those tapes were the last time I had to confront my disdain for reading until middle school English class.
The first day of middle school English class was the most uncomfortable and frustrating experience. They just gave me a book and expected me to read for the whole class period, which was an hour-long. The first book they gave me was Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. While other students in the class were intrigued by Hesse’s words to describe the dust, I was bored by the whole conversation. I envied the other students for being able to enjoy the book, and for the remainder of the week, I just followed along in the book, so I could read aloud if called on but never thoroughly reading the material. My way of “reading” worked until 7th-grade because Teachers expected more in-depth knowledge of the reading material that could not be satisfied by my passive reading.
For the first weeks of class, I tried to read along, but it was not working. I kept getting distracted and losing my place in the book. I was so frustrated that I put my head down and ended up napping instead of reading. My teacher saw me sleeping and told me to stay after class so we could talk. I was dreading the whole conversation and explaining my actions, but she did not ask me about any of that. After class, she asked me if I enjoyed the book we were reading in class, to which I responded with a sad no. She did not say anything for a moment, and then she asked me what genre of book I would prefer to read. I was very confused by this question because all the books we read in school seemed to be the same, so I responded by saying that I just wanted to read something exciting and action-packed. After I said this, she allowed me to go to my next class, and I forgot about the conversation until two weeks later when we started Lord Of the Flies.
It was a rainy Monday morning, and when I walked into class, the board said that we were starting a new unit which usually meant a new book. After the class got settled, our teacher started to explain the book and that it was about kids a little other than us living on a stranded island without adults. Everyone in class perked up at the sound of No adults and got excited about the adventures that were going to happen in the book. I did not share the same excitement and was apprehensive, and while I was lost in my thoughts, my teacher had come up to me and told me to spend less time trying to understand what was happening in the book and more time enjoying and following along with the story.
At first, I tried to continue reading passively, but I got sucked into the book’s mysteries. As we were reading aloud, I imagined the scenes written on the page and potential explanations for why the kids made the decisions they did. At the same time, the teacher asked us questions about the possible next steps of the kids and our opinions on what we would do in their place. At the end of the class period, I was more confused than ever. For once, we were not reading fast enough. That night, I read more pages of the book, answered my questions, and left with more questions. The following day I presented my questions to the teacher to see if I could get my questions answered, and all she said was that I had to keep reading to find the answers to the questions I asked.
So, for the days following that conversation, I read anywhere I had time because I needed to have my questions answered. It was through this experience that I began to enjoy the feeling of reading a good book. After that, I read more exciting books fulfilling my desire to replicate that feeling. The class that I once thought was boring became one of my favorite classes because of one experience with a good book.