A few years ago, I was looking for something new to get myself into and answered a call from the library looking for Reading Buddies. This means you are a vetted adult who sits, one-on-one, with kids from the community and listens to them read in fifteen-minute chunks. One of the things I love most is the broad range of the kids. There are the ones who are there because it is an activity with "reading" in the title and that is what they do, nonstop. Then there are the ones who are there reluctantly, whose teachers pulled their parents aside to tell them that their child is not reading as well as they should and that there is this great program over at the library. I am delighted by both groups (and the vast scale of those who fall in between).
Anyway, it's a program I continue to love and have adjusted my work schedule in order to participate. Last week, the summer reading club started up. When trying to conjure memories of my own experience as a kid, I could only recall that of the big prizes up for raffle (usually bikes) and colorful posters. Not that this is a surprise; I have long perpetuated the story that, despite being a strong writer, I was never a big reader. I have felt the need to defend this stance with a long list of reasons - from being very social, to having a short attention span, to genuinely loving movies more than books, and on and on.
And then it dawned on me, standing in line to officially sign up for the club as an adult (this is a thing, if you don't know), that it serves no one for me to continue this narrative (except to offer some kind of reassurance to a parent who might be concerned that not being a reader might lead to a life of delinquency). So I'm making a concerted effort to fill in some holes in my reading this summer, starting with some children's and YA classics.
So far I've finished the Outsiders (which I knew from seeing the movie a couple dozen times), Charlotte's Web (like those of summer reading club as a kid, my memories of this book was a vague, sensory memory of it being read to us in Kindergarten. I'd expected to cry when the spider died, but not when her babies ballooned away saying, "goodbye, goodbye." Waterworks.) And now I'm working on Catcher in the Rye.
What experience is doing for me is moving me from the lazy, surface level of these cultural juggernauts (cute boys with funny names, talking animals, brooding young men) to the deeper levels of language and connection and voice. And that there is so much out there just waiting to be discovered.