I never considered myself a good reader. I loved writing assignments that allowed me to write my own story, but I hated the thought of reading for school. I knew that if we read something, we would be asked questions about what we read (or even worse, quizzed on it). I always feared that I was a slow reader and that I had poor reading comprehension. I didn't like doing things that I wasn't great at.
One of my most vivid childhood memories is struggling with a homework assignment one afternoon at home. I was in Mrs. Baity's fifth grade class, and we would frequently receive a "newspaper" that included articles, quizzes, and puzzles. I think it was made and distributed by Scholastic. (Who remembers Scholastic books and book fairs?!) That day, we were required to read the newspaper and answer, complete the quiz on page 4, and answer five questions that the teacher wrote on the board. Whatever was not completed would be that night's homework.
I didn't finish. Not even close. I hit a road block and, for the life of me, couldn't figure out how to answer the first question on the board without re-writing the whole article. Instead of moving on and then going back to it later, I sat there... staring at the question... re-reading the article... staring at the question again. I saw a few kids turn in the assignment and pack up their backpacks, ready for the bell to ring. Meanwhile, I felt paralyzed by the reading assignment.
By the time I got home that afternoon, I felt so frustrated and hopeless after having stewed over it on the bus ride home. My mom called me to the top of the stairs to remind me what time we had to leave the house for dance class. I asked,
"Have you ever had one of those days where you couldn't do anything right? That's me today." It sounds so melodramatic, but it felt so real!
As it turns out, I was actually pretty smart. I was a GATE student (Gift and Talented Education), having tested higher than my grade level in math, reading, and spelling. However, I didn't know that, and it didn't change the fact that I struggled. I overthought reading comprehension activities and tried to write novels when the teacher was simply looking for a one-sentence response. If an answered seemed to came to me too easily, I assumed I missed something or didn't understand the question. It wasn't until high school that I enjoyed reading and until college that I started reading for pleasure.
Even before Presley was here, I thought books were great toys. Growing up, I had quite a collection of books that I loved (and loved even more because they weren't required reading for school). For Presley's baby shower, my sister and I considered asking for books with handwritten dedications to Presley inside in lieu of cards, but it would have been pretty expensive to ship back to Memphis (or too heavy to pack in luggage).
But baby girl is not short on books. Have you heard of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library? I registered Presley after she was born, and now she is going to receive one age-appropriate book per month until she is five years old. She received her first book in April which means she will receive 58 books for free! The monthly delivery keeps Presley's collection fresh and interesting.
I hope that Presley does enjoy reading from an early age, but more than that, I'm going to try to celebrate the things she is good at and to remind her that it is OK to not be (or feel) great at everything.
** Dolly Parton and Imagination Library have no idea who I am. I think this is an amazing program that everyone should know about!