On my first day of first grade, my teacher explained that we would have a daily silent reading time where we would pick any book from the classroom library. Upon hearing this anxiety built up in my six-year-old brain. I looked around the room, but no one else seemed phased by this idea. I couldn’t read and apparently everyone else could.
Our first silent reading session came. I timidly picked out a picture book about sea life and sat down in my seat. I have a vague memory of hoping that I would magically be able to understand the words on the page. I opened the book, but I still couldn’t read. I looked at the pictures, wondering if anyone could see through my act. Once I realized that no one could tell that I wasn’t reading, it was clear that I was no longer an outsider. I was just one entity in a room full of six-year-olds with books.tly everyone else could.
As the year went on I received reading help and eventually I started to read with my classmates. The books got harder, and my reading got better. I started writing book reports, accompanied by dioramas plastered in construction paper and purple glue.
By the time I reached middle school all I wanted to do was read. I was quiet and only had a few friends, so literature fed my the connections I longed for. I would become invested in the characters, pour over an author’s life story, and jump into any opportunity to talk about my favorite books with other readers.
In high school I became invested in my writing. I kept a reading journal where I would rate the books and write a detailed explanation of my findings. I wrote poetry in my journals and submitted them to teen writing contests. I would work diligently on every essay, short story, or writing assignment, often neglecting my other school work.
When it came time to chose a career path, choosing anything outside of the English field seemed impossible. I longed for the connections that literature gave me. If I wasn’t reading or writing how would I dive into the moment the author was writing in? How would I strike up conversations with classmates I had never spoken to before? Where else would I get such a wealth of mew ideas? How would I shape my worldview?
Considering these questions and my experience with literature, once I picked the English major, teaching seemed like a natural choice. I wanted to show students who struggled to understand their surroundings, the world of words and writing that had brought me so much. Going forward in the education field, I seek to give middle and high school students the opportunity to become socially conscious, active young people.
Now here I am, formerly a struggling reader, now going on to teach writing and literature to the masses. From the very beginning of my reading career I anxiously recognized that engaging with a text is not something that we do behind closed doors. At first this was intimidating. I felt that if I couldn’t measure up to my peers I would be outcasted, but I soon realized that engaging with literature in a public space led me to a slew of connections. These connections not only made me feel like I was engaged with the world, but helped me to determine how I should understand and act in the context of my surroundings.