I’ve probably blogged about this at some point before, but I was a late reader. Not in the sense that I didn’t pick up reading at age three or four, like some precocious kids. Like I went through five, six, seven, and eight with very little ability to read. I met with specialists and tutors. My mother spent hours upon hours working on exercises, sounding out words, and writing letters in trays of salt. She read to me every night, which engendered a love of books that I can’t imagine having otherwise – especially given our rough start. It’s not that I wasn’t trying. I would have given anything to be able to do it. When teachers asked me to “just try” reading in front of the class, they might as well have asked me to translate the text into Latin or fly. I was trying. And it felt like all day every day I was continually being asked to do something, that I just wasn’t able to do.
At nine, things started to shift. At ten, I read Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine and fell in love with a book for the first time. And by twelve, I was considered an advanced reader (and have been ever since). I LOVED this new identity and embraced it with the passion of a convert. I read everything, with special loves for Laura Ingalls Wider, The Babysitter Club, and (eventually) Teen Avon True Romances. But I also delighted in reading so called “hard books.” I loved the surprise on my 6th grade English teacher’s face when I told her I read all of Gone with the Wind over spring break. I tackled every Jane Austen novel, so I could say I read them all, and then moved onto the Bronte sisters. I read War and Peace for fun when I was sixteen. And while I actually did have fun reading it, the pride I felt finishing that book far outpaced any enjoyment I found in its pages.
But now, you know what? I’m way prouder of seven year old Alison than seventeen year old Alison. It was way harder to try to struggle through the red dragon book in second grade (my mom will remember this, it ended in tears) than read War and Peace. And I think some of the little grit I have, comes from that early struggle to accomplish what many consider to be a basic skill.
This week was good, but it was also hard. Transitions are hard. Being away from family is hard. Balancing writing and teaching is hard. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone is hard. Grieving, even if prematurely, is very, very hard. But these things are also good.
And I’m very glad, I have my writing and reading to comfort me and help me make sense of these good/hard times.