Let’s call her Emma.
Emma is a school counselor that blurted in a conversation with two literacy teacher / professors (I was one of them) that she hated to read.
When she said that, in full voice, my heart sank. I had immediately loved this lady whom I had actually only recently met. She was full of life, flashing a radiant smile and couldn’t have been more engaging personally or professionally. How could you not be drawn to such a person!?
My immediate come-back blurt was probably as unsettling to her as hers was to me. “Oh No!” I said without thinking for an instant. “No way!” I heard my colleague say, not a hair’s breadth after my uncontrolled exclamation.
She had attended our session for parents where we were assisting them in coming to successfully and joyfully reading aloud to their children from birth (or at least from NOW). We met in her school serving low income families, many of whom spoke Spanish in the home.
It will be no surprise, we were sharing the Wondrously Infinite Global Library of narrated picture books designed to lure babies and small children into a love of books and reading. No surprise they loved the books and the on-demand narrations in Spanish. No surprise that we two professors were actually speechless for just under 3 seconds after her announcement.
Emma, was the surprise. Emma clearly felt both the need to share her personal animosity for reading, the candor of which we took as a wonderful endorsement of us as people of good will toward her. But we both immediately burst into our “You don’t hate to read, you just haven’t found the right book / author yet” speeches.
As I have suggested here before, not liking to read sounds to me like not liking to breathe. It just doesn’t compute for those of us who see free choice reading as the most democratic form of lifelong learning.
But the big story here is that despite her personal distaste for reading, Emma had religiously read to her kids from birth and she proudly (deservedly so) told us of their successes in school and life. She laughed, telling us how her children are constantly trying to lure her into reading something they found fabulous. In making this clear, parental sacrifice for the good of her children, she has broken a bit of her family’s historic culture of not reading to their children and replaced it with a future of school and life success for her grandchildren, and theirs…and theirs.
Emma left us with a hug and carrying a copy of The Watson Go to Birmingham 1963 (Christopher Paul Curtis, 1995, Random House), the award winning story of a fascinating family from Flint, Michigan who end up connected to the bombings of black churches in a race-torn southern city. Additionally, we sent her along with a $100 bet that she’d love the story and want more.
The bet was rigged of course. NOBODY doesn’t love Kenny Watson and his quirky family.
I’ll let you know.