Books, Reading, and Underachieving.

I grew up in a culture of reading. We read anything and everything. When my sister and I would go to people’s houses for dinner and they didn’t have children books, we would read whatever they had. We came to be experts on a large variety of random subjects. My dad didn’t care much for television and so until we were older, we didn’t watch a lot. We just read. Below is a story on how my parents lit a fire under me to really “challenge” me.

I was in second grade when my parents started to worry about me academically. There were whispered conversations in the kitchen late at night. “I’m just worried she’ll fall behind.” “N was reading [this title] by her age.” My parents were not novices to the parenting world. I had a sister two years older than me. They knew what to expect. Sort of. Parent teacher conferences were the next week. They decided to wait until then to bring it up with my teacher. In the meantime, they did things with me at home to develop my reading skills to the level they felt I should be at.

Parent Teacher Conference came, and they met with my teacher. “We are worried about her.” “She doesn’t seem to take interest in books her age level.”

My teacher was flabbergasted. She informed my dad that I was reading at a 6th grade level. The books that they were so worried were under my reading level, were chapter books that my peers had not gotten to yet. In fact, none of my peers at that time were reading any chapter books. She assured my parents that I was just fine, and there was no need to try to improve my reading skills, but just continue as always to encourage me to read.

My parents may come off as people with perhaps overly optimistic expectations of their young daughter, but in fairness to them, the person they were comparing me to was a prodigy of books. She read The Bible and The Book of Mormon both before she was eight- in preparation for her baptism. On a dare from my dad, she read Crime and Punishment in 5th grade. By comparison, my Roald Dahl books did look juvenile.

The following year my Dad challenged me to read Little Women. I did. The year after that, my Dad told me it was high time I get interested in Homer. I read most of The Odyssey. No matter how impressive of a reader I was however, my overachiever sister was always reading more. I started reading classics. I didn’t always understand them all, but if N was reading them, then I had to. This rivalry continued throughout my childhood and early adulthood, and developed me into the reader I am today. I’m glad I was encouraged to read things that seemed out of my reach. 

I live by the motto that you can never have too many books. If you don’t have room, buy another bookshelf.