The first time I read a book on my own was daring night for me. I didn't realize its significance in my reading career; it was dangerous because I was trying to hide it from my parents.
Perhaps I should explain. Since before I can remember, my mom, my older sister, and I would have reading time. It started out with mom reading to us little picture books on the couch but sometimes Mom would read book that she was reading on her own. My sister, Rachel, and I would sit behind her and play with her hair or sit on the floor and draw while Mom read aloud.
When Mom realized that I could follow the story and notice when she started at different point than she'd left off the day before, reading time selections became almost exclusively classics such as The Swiss Family Robinson, The Little House on the Prairie, Robinson Crusoe, Anne of Green Gables and many other “big” books. Eventually, I took a greater interest in the pages my mother was finding the great stories in than in braiding her hair or trying to capture the whole story with a crayon and paper. Mom would put her finger under the words as she read and eventually I made the connection and began to recognize words that showed up often like “the” or “and”. During our homeschool sessions in the morning, we went over the phonics and simple words but Mom wisely never made our reading sessions seem like it was related to my school work. I thought myself very clever to be able to use what I had learned to decipher the words in the “big” books.
The transition from Mom reading to me reading during reading time was a natural one. I whispered the words I knew as Mom read them until I knew enough of them that I could read an entire paragraph on my own (little did I know that the books we were reading were much easier to read than the ones Mom had been reading before I paid attention to pages). Then I was reading pages and eventually whole chapters. Reading time books were so different from the little readers we used during homeschool that they were never put in the same category in my mind. Readers were schoolwork; books were fun.
The two finally met when reading time books had worked their length and difficultly level down to where I could read the whole book by myself. Then, as a part of our history curriculum, we would read historical fiction during our reading time. It was “we” because as a compromise for turning reading time into school, Mom would read a chapter for every two I read (I preferred listening to her voice than mine).
It was during this time that we read a book called The Whipping Boy; it was a busy day so we could only read a few chapters but I couldn't wait till the next day to find out what happened next. I knew Mom wouldn't want me to get ahead of her in the story because I knew how much it annoyed me when Mom read ahead in one of her books (we still read those on occasion). So I decided I'd have be sneaky about it. While she was making dinner, I took the book out of the school stack and sneaked into my room. After some thought, I hid it in my pillowcase.
That night, bedtime went as usual. Dad prayed with us and kissed us goodnight, then Mom came and kissed us. Then they'd leave together, leaving the door slightly ajar with the hall light on because Rachel was afraid of the dark. I lay frozen listening for the sound of the footsteps on the stairs. In my head I counted “One...two...three...four...five......six” as Mom went downstairs and paused to look through the mail as she always did. Then Dad went down the stairs after checking on my little brother and sister, “One, two, three, four, five, six”. I counted to sixty, a full minute, before I very carefully pulled the hidden book from my pillowcase. Then turned around so that my feet lay on my pillow and my head was at the edge of the bed where the light from the hall crossed. With that light, I started to read.
Leaving the bookmark where it was, I read the next chapter and then the next. There were a few fearful moments when Mom or Dad would come upstairs something and I had to scurry back into the right position, fix my blanket, and then pretend to sleep. I always lay on top of the book or put it underneath my pillow because I was afraid they would be able to see the outline of the book through the covers. Despite the interruptions I was able to finish the entire book that night, a great feat for me because it was the first time I had read an entire chapter book in one day (we started it that afternoon so it counted as one day). I was surprised when I reached the end that night. Reading a whole book in a single day was a such a foreign concept. I had no idea it could be done.
The next day during reading time, I pretended that I had no idea what would happen next and quickly learned the joys of rereading a book you really like. Later I went to the schoolbook shelves where we kept all of my reading level chapter books and found a new book to enjoy that night. Eventually I became smarter and found a flashlight which I hid under my mattress. My late night reading sessions were discovered in time and I had to become more careful, especially when Rachel realized what I was doing. And those late nights reading in poor light were what led to a trip to the eye doctor and a set of glasses. But I never once regretted stealing away with that book that night. And I doubt my mother is sorry I did it either.
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