We all have stories we tell ourselves. They become our daily truths. Although I am a passionate reader and writer, it was not a part of myself I embraced and nurtured until I was in grad school in my late twenties. My mother reminds me of library trips when I was little. I have some pictures of my dad reading aloud to me on the couch. There is even a drawing with my writing stating I wanted to be a librarian. So, why is it during all my school years, I never felt like a reader or writer? According to the story I told myself, I was a struggler.
Out of my small group of neighborhood friends of four girls, two of us were readers and two of us were not. It confused me when my oldest and dearest friend, whom I have known since I was six used to fake a headache to go inside and read instead of play.
So when did my reading story change from the time my parents nurtured me as a reader to the time I went to school. I fear it was the teachers. In the 1970’s there were no books in my classrooms from first grade through third. At least I don’t remember them. But, why? I remember reading groups. I remember being in the lower reading group and being very bored. I remember my fourth grade teacher demanding we read 25 books in one quarter and earning a big fat D on my list of five books.
I kept telling myself the story that I wasn’t a reader from the time I started school until well into high school. It was in the classrooms of amazing and inspiring english teachers I craved to love and enjoy and understand how to read and write. Ms. Scudlo dripped with reading passion. Her classroom, the way she walked, the random tree branches strung throughout the room told her reading story. She simply was a reader and writer in love with reading and writing. Mr. Schusterbauer even shared his own stories he had written. I wept when he revealed the tragedy of losing his daughter through a beautiful Christmas story.
It was in college when I decided to go into education when I started to fight my lying voices about learning. I decided to teach in protest to the way I was taught as a young child. I wanted to help the young people who didn’t “get it” to see what they did understand instead of what they didn’t.
Regie Routman was my first reading teacher who taught me how to be a reading teacher. My Children’s Literature professor held my hand as I carefully fell in love with books for children. Then I started to read my own stories without shame. In grad school I read Mosaic of Thought. It taught me to think about reading in a whole new way. It was like the authors unlocked my brain and showed me a map that had been hidden.
What did I learn from all this? Our brains are very tricky. Our self concepts are elastic. We can change our stories.