Stepping Stones: How I became a Reader

I consider myself to be a capital R “Reader”. I was read to as a child, taught to read, and always had plenty of reading material available to me. Today I reflect on how I became a Reader. It turns out there were 5 easy steps!

Step 1:  Choosing to Read

Growing up my parents always encouraged me to read. One rule in our house had to do with reading and bedtime. I had a bedtime and a go to sleep time. When the time arrived, I think 8:30, I was sent off to bed. I could either read in my room for 30 minutes or go directly to bed. My bedroom had an odd cut-out/half-closet thing. I would pile pillows, blankets, and books into the reading nook and choose to read for 30 minutes before bed. I made the simple choice of reading before bed, thus choosing to become a reader.


Step 2:  Writing in books!??!

My high school teachers helped me take the next step as a reader. My Latin teacher, Magistra, gave us copies of Edith Hamiliton’s Mythology. There was one caveat. We had to highlight, underline, and write inside the book. I had never considered writing inside a book before this. My “Edith”, as we called it, has come to my aid many times throughout my life, helping to answer a mythology, literature, or history question. I started to become a Reader when I learned that writing in books was a good thing.


Step 3: Using a novel to teach history

The next giant leap towards becoming a Reader occurred my sophomore year of college. I was taking a Roman History course at Fort Lewis College. One of our required books was The Course of Honor. This novel, written by Lindsey Davis, fictionalizes the story of the Emperor Vespasian and his life-long love of the freedwoman Caenis. Not only is it now one of my favorite novels, but I had never considered that a work of historical fiction could be used to teach about a culture or society. I learned through The Course of Honor that a Reader uses fiction to serve as a gateway to learning in other disciplines.


Step 4: Reading to nieces and nephews

The fourth step toward becoming a Reader has been a gift to me from my nieces and nephews. Reading books with them has always been something fun to do with Aunt Jen. One particular time that stands out in my mind is when our niece (and the rest of the family) visited one Christmas. I pulled out our children’s books to read. Green Eggs and Ham was an instant hit. We read that book here and there, we read that book everywhere. She could recite the rhymes of Dr. Seuss and loved looking at the illustrations. After the whole family left, I was left to pick up Green Eggs and Ham and marvel at the gift that sharing reading was for me as a Reader.


Step 5: Igniting an Interest

The most recent step towards becoming a Reader has happened in my professional life. I was given this gift from a student. I had a student who needed additional practice with reading. We tried novels in many genres, but they were all met with reluctance. One day, we chose to begin Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief. The student and I read aloud the tale of Percy. I was able to answer his mythology questions and he became more curious. I brought in my Edith to share with him and he was amazed that you can write in books. We discussed the parts of plot, literary elements, mythology, history, and reading. The greatest gift that this student could give me was the excitement he had when he asked if I had read the next chapter.

I am not sure which steps were the ones that turned me from reader to Reader. It probably is a combination of all of the steps. I consider myself a Reader. And I couldn’t be happier!

The “Step 1” image is courtesy a Flickr Creative Commons license.  Please visit the original page here.
All other images are my own.

11 thoughts on “Stepping Stones: How I became a Reader

  1. I especially like your comment about using “fiction as a gateway to other disciplines.” I never thought of it that way. I attended the Mari Sandoz conference at CSC last week and I already purchased two books that I plan on reading soon. One is Sloghum House which is considered historical fiction. I am looking forward to examining the culture of the old west. I guess in the past I didn’t trust historical fiction, but I don’t actually have a reason for it. The way you describe fiction as a gateway is intriguing. I have never read The Lightning Thief either. That one sounds interesting. Your story is inspiring.


    1. I think that the choice of the historical fiction is very important. If you are using it as a gateway to history (or anything else), I think that it should be reasonably well researched.
      I read an interview by Lindsey Davis one time (author of “The Course of Honor”) and she said that she HATED her books being used as a way to teach history. She is a very thorough historian along with an amazing novelist.
      My “cautionary” historical fiction tale comes from a bit more recently though. I read “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” a few summers ago. Now, I know that this is not supposed to be historical fiction. However, when I got done reading it, I looked at my husband and asked if the author thought this was a TRUE story. It was quite convincing.
      Thanks for your comments!


  2. I think that the attitude parents have towards books is HUGE in determining whether or not someone will turn out to be a reader. My parents were also huge on providing me the time and the books to become a reader. I also like how putting reading before bed makes it a choice, not a chore.


    1. I completely agree Savannah! Parents who encourage, support, maybe at times force, us to read shape our reading lives.
      Your comment about how reading before bed is a choice makes me think about the article we read by Donalyn Miller. If we give students a choice in the matter – when to read, what to read – they will have the power to become a reader.


  3. I used to have to read before bedtime too! That 30 minutes was my time to read whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to read what the school assigned me. I enjoyed hiding in my room with a good book. Reading “Green Eggs and Ham” was also a part of my childhood. I loved Dr. Seuss, so when my brother was born, I read him every Dr. Seuss book that I owned. He took a liking to Sam I Am, so that was our bedtime book until he learned to read and decided he was too cool to read Dr. Seuss. If that’s even a thing…


    1. You are never too old for Seuss! Does your brother still think he is too old for Dr. Seuss?
      What was your favorite book to settle in with before bed?

      I thought I was the only kid who had a 30 minute reading time before bed!


  4. This is such a great post! I love your “reading nook” as a child–we have similar rule in our house for my daughter, who is a first grader and who is not always ready to go to bed at bedtime. However, she does not have a nook, so I might need to think about that! 🙂

    I love the sound of “The Course of Honor!” Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, so I may have to get this one on the Kindle, since you rate it so highly!

    The fact that you are already working with children and that you are already finding ways to inspire them to read and find books that interest them is so amazing! We can all learn a lot from you, so I hope you continue to share!


    1. I absolutely LOVE “The Course of Honor”. A tangentially related series called the Falco series is also written by Lindsey Davis. In this series (the first book is Silver Pigs), Marcus Didius Falco is an informer in the time of the Emperor Vespasian (the male lead of The Course of Honor). Falco has to solve crimes, uncover conspiracies, deal with his plethora of relatives, and generally save the day. There are 18 or 19 books now. If historical/romantic fiction isn’t your thing, but you like mysteries…I’d recommend them!


  5. Wonderful post! I love your parents’ idea of giving you 30 extra minutes before bed IF you were reading. What a terrific way to motivate a child to read and to make sure she actually has time to do it. I love the story about Percy Jackson too. I really believe that there is a “just right” for everyone, and your story shows that. I love that you didn’t give up trying to find a book to connect with this student. I am looking forward to learning from you this semester, because it’s clear you’ve got a lot to share with our class!


    1. Thank you! I wish my parents still lived in that house, because that little alcove was one of the best gifts a middle school kid could have! I’m not sure that my brother ever used his 30 minutes, but I used mine daily.
      Also, I love the connection with a student when they find their reading passion. However, how do I work to make sure they can connect with that passion? There are so many books out there for kids, what are some of the better ways to connect the student with THE book?
      I hope we learn this, and so much more, this semester.


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