by Tamara Flaherty
I was never taught how to read, I just knew.
The definition of a self taught reader is a child who somehow learned to read with no formal instruction. The earliest age I remember reading is about 5 years old, before I entered kindergarten.
By the age of 6 when I was in first grade, I was required to go to my sisters 3rd grade class for reading and spelling. I was already winning spelling bees at this point.
By 2nd grade I had grown to hate circle time in class for reading. I didn’t last long in that particular reading activity. It would drive me nuts listening to the other kids laboriously trying to sound out words like W-A-G-O-N and C-O-U-L-D and I would jump in and say it for them (see my earlier blog about talking too much). Soon, whenever it was time for reading circle in class, I was escorted out to the hallway by myself to read.
I grew up in the 70’s when schools still used the old reading machines. They would put a story in, set the speed and then quiz me on comprehension after I finished the story. They would then increase both the speed and the reading difficulty to match my post-reading comprehension scores. That’s how I spent reading circle time and I loved it! I just wished the stories were more interesting and longer.
The only reason I share that is to convey how very much I have always loved books and reading. Okay so maybe I elaborated a bit more than needed to bask in my former elementary school glory a little, but who can blame me? I’m 44 and quite ordinary now so I have to take it where I can get it. Cue Bruce Springstein’s Glory Days . Moving on now.
One of the greatest gifts my mother ever gave me is prohibiting a television anywhere in our home when we were growing up. As a result I had no other outlet aside from reading. I was lucky enough to live just a few blocks from a public library and it was my favorite place on earth! That and the little closet downstairs with the bench where I would hide with my stacks of books and read in peace and quiet.
The purpose of this blog is to share a few of my favorite books as a child and talk about why they are my favorites and what impact they had on my life so let’s get started.
1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
I have read this series (7 books) at least 10 times.
Peter, Susan, Edmund, & Lucy were living in a war-torn country, separated from their parents, lonely and alone and then they are magically transported to a beautiful country where they are suddenly kings and queens and where Aslan will do whatever it takes to keep them safe from harm. It’s an amazing story for any child but particularly comforting to me as I spent much of my childhood feeling alone and unimportant, separated from my dad, and desperately wishing for my own “Aslan”. This series gave me the ability to dream, to hope , and to imagine magical possibilities for my own life.
2. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
This book is about a little boy growing up in poverty who has a dream that seems insurmountable. He wants a pair of coon hounds to hunt with. His hard work, perseverance, and sacrifice allowed him to finally achieve his dream. Within this heart – wrenching story are the subtexts of triumph, loss , grief, love, and resilience. The message that imbedded itself into my young mind is that even seemingly impossible dreams are possible with persistence and hard work, and that there is beauty in the journey even if it ends in loss or grief.
3. Encyclopedia Brown Series by Donald J. Sobol
This was a book series about a very intelligent little boy named Encyclopedia, and the mysteries he was trying to solve. The hook for me in these books was a very unique method (at least in the 70’s) of allowing the reader to choose the ending of the story. Near the end of a chapter right when the situation was getting tense, the instructions were given for the reader to choose an action for Encyclopedia to take. If I chose option 1, it led me to page 20 for example, to finish the story. If I chose option 2, I went to page 30 for a different ending.
I loved these books because I got to determine how the story ended based on my choices. The life lesson I received as a child is that no matter how the beginning of my story was written, that I could alter the ending based upon my own choices. That was powerful knowledge for a child whose story hadn’t begun well and who felt powerless at times to change it.
Those are a few of my favorite books that I read between the ages of 7-12
It would be impossible to cover them all. The beauty of books for me was that they allowed me to see and imagine a world outside of the one I was living in. They took me to faraway places, introduced me to a multitude of people, cultures, and ideas, and most importantly, they nurtured my dreams. Dreams of a life with unlimited possibilities, amazing adventures, and the realization that I really could make those dreams a reality.
Thank you Mom for not allowing TV in our home, and for the freedom to walk to the library and lose myself in books because through that, I found myself and achieved my dreams.
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