Son of a Book Lover

Son of a Book Lover: Living in a Library

by Joseph Thurman

I believe everyone’s literacy history starts with and is greatly influenced by their parents. My mother played an integral role in my literacy history. She read to me before I was born. My earliest memories all include books or other reading materials. For every birthday, Christmas, or special occasion, the gifts always included books.  I did not realize until this assignment, which included me examining my literacy history, how truly fortunate I was for the start that I had.

When I was five years old, I started kindergarten at Concord Elementary School in the fall of 2004. I had never attended any preschool, so this was my first traditional school experience that included peers my own age. It did not take very long for me to notice that I was different from the other kids in my class. Some did not have a firm mastery of the alphabet, but I was already reading books. After Christmas break my first best friend, Ethan, and I compared what we had received.  I thought it odd that my list included several books, but his list did not include any. I would go to my friends’ homes for play dates and sleep overs and wonder where all their books were hidden. It was nearing the end my kindergarten year before I realized that we did not live in a library. We had novels, reference books (including a hardcopy of the Encyclopedia Britannica), periodicals, everything except the microfiche and the card catalogue!

In the first grade, CES had a program to keep track of the number of books you read each week.  At the end of the month, the student with the most books got to choose a prize from the treasure chest.  By the third month of school, I had every prize there was to choose.

We started a program call the Accelerated Reader (AR) in the second grade. You could choose from certain books, read them, take a quiz, and earn certain number of points depending on the book and your quiz score. I was a helper to administer the quizzes to other students and was quite proud of the fact that I always led the top points list consistently throughout the year.

By the third grade my advanced literacy started to be a hindrance in the traditional educational system. I would consistently finish my class work way before the other students. I would find it hard to sit still and be silent for 30 to 45 minutes while waiting for the others to complete their work. I would inevitably get scolded for distracting the other students. I was lucky to have a teacher named Mrs. Culpepper. She had a small couch in the back of the classroom.  Whenever I finished my assignments early, she would allow me to go sit on the couch and read a book of my choice until the other students finished.

It started in middle school when I first remember being bullied for being a “reader.” It was no longer “cool” to be the fastest reader with the highest reading scores. The peer pressure was overwhelming. From the sixth to the ninth grade, I would never be caught reading or carrying any personal reading materials. I remember reading a novel, secretly, in the stairwell during lunch one day in the eighth grade.  When some guys from gym passed me, I blurted something like, “Mrs. Wright is killing me with this reading assignment!” Not lucky for me, many of my remaining teachers, through the twelfth grade, were more about the traditional education system, or everyone learning the same way and at the same speed. If I wasn’t being challenged, I was sure to wind up in the office.

Thinking back, I believe writing came naturally due to all the voracious reading I did. I liked to tell stories and write comparison or contrast papers. My favorite of all times, though, is writing arguments for one side of an issue.

I learned to read and write before I ever went to school because of my mother.  She surrounded me with books and magazines and made reading a part of everyday life.  I can see now that her love of reading that she passed to onto me really was an asset all along, and especially contributed to my rich literacy history.