Today, Dr. Morgan asked us to journal about the most important text we've ever read. I had a difficult time coming up with something. I ended up saying that Brennan Manning's Ragamuffin Gospel has recently had a profound effect on me because it helped me to come the realization that I don't let myself be loved. Also, I'm now frequently reminded that I have my halo on too tight. That's what I came up with for my journal.
Several people shared their entries. Many people described the book that triggered within them an interest in language and reading. For some, it was the first book that they ever read.
I've been thinking lately about what made me choose English to study. How did I end up so interested in reading? Of course, that presumption could be debated. (See: All the books I haven't read.) But what started it? I'm not sure. If I had to pin a book down, it might be Charlotte's Web. In second grade, Mrs. Hawkins read it to us in class, and afterward, I got the book. I'm sure it was the first book that I ever read. But I've never thought of giving it credit for my literacy.
Maybe it was my cousin Arenda. When we were little, she (being two years older than I) would sit me down on her parents' bed and read Superfudge to me. Later, she made me read some of her books. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and A Wrinkle in Time are the ones I remember.
Oh, in third grade, there was this literacy push and the school gave us all a free book. I chose How to Eat Fried Worms. And at some point, I think I bought some Ramona books. I'm seeing a Judy Blume pattern, here.
And then, in junior high, there was R. L. Stine. Maybe that's where it began. I devoured those books. But I'm a little hestiant to credit Fear Street for everything.
I'm just not sure. And these days, I'm making up for lost reading with children's literature. If I had read about Narnia when I was little or if Harry Potter had've existed back then, I'm sure I know where I could place the (beloved) blame.
I guess I'm a fluke. Not that my parents aren't responsible for my active imagination. They told me stories and piqued my interest in the world. But reading wasn't something that happened very often. I remember being a kid and looking at a copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on the bookshelf (with the encyclopedias, whose pictures I looked at for fun), but it never ocurred to me to read it. And I didn't until I was a sophomore in college.
But here's the thing. Kids need books to spark their imaginations. And it is because kids don't see any value in books that there is a whole generation of functionally illiterate people. And this, my friends, is a sad thing.
If you get the chance, read a kid a book. Give a kid a book. Write a kid a book. I know I sound like a Saturday morning public service announcement, but I think it makes all the difference in the world.