Gram why are you crying?
When I was a little girl my Gram would read my school books to me, all the way up until my freshman year in highschool. Usually by the end of the book in the last chapter, if it was a sad book, my grandmother would be visually upset. I would always make fun of her and say something like “C’mon Gram it’s not even sad, why are you crying?” when I knew it was a sad thing that had happened, what I really wanted to know was why I wasn’t sad. I was always just sitting there listening, emotionally unattached to the book, I wasn’t connected to the books like my gram was, I didn’t invest myself by relating to the content. I would only listen to the words one by one, instead of them together forming paragraphs, telling a story.
Watching people get attached to books by crying about a story or getting angry, made me feel a little discouraged at times, about my reading. This made me have doubt in my ability to read: was I reading right? Am I not a good reader? Questions of self doubt started to pop into my head, I think in those moments I did not want to read anymore. I did not want to be the only one who didn’t feel anything about the character dying or whatever it may have been. I didn’t want to be reading through a whole story and feel uninterested and not be absorbing the content. I wanted to be like like my gram, I wanted to be so entangled in the book that I wouldn’t want to set it down and I would be upset when it came to the last chapter.
Class discussions on assigned readings were my worst fear. I would sit in my class full of 18 kids, trying not to make eye contact with my teacher, so that she wouldn’t call on me. The questions she would ask would be something like: “What happened in the chapter?” and then advance to “ How did what happened in this chapter make you feel, how did it relate to you?” I didn’t relate and I didn’t feel any type of way about the chapter. Just sitting there unconnected with the writing was embarrassing and challenging to be able to then engage in class.
So after countless classes where I felt like an outsider to reading and class discussions, I decided I would learn how to make myself connect. I knew how to read words, and I understood paragraphs but in a sense I didn’t know how to read. I didn’t know how to engage with text and relate to a story so that I could understand and analyze it, like some other kids could do, but I wanted to and so I made myself try.
One of the first pieces of writing that I really connected to in school was the one everyone dreaded, Romeo and Juliet, By Shakespeare. A bit of an unusual piece of writing to connect to considering shakespearean language is considered hard to understand, but that’s just the reason I was able to get so connected with the story. I had to break down every sentence and reword it in my head to be able to understand it. Romeo and Juliet was the first book I’ve ever purchased. I remember going into Barnes & Noble with my mom, it was the only book I had along with a fancy beaded bookmark. I loved the way the words sounded when I read aloud, it was the feeling you get when laying on a beach listening to the waves roll onto the shore. Every night before bed I had a ritual of opening up Romeo and Juliet and starting to memorize my favorite acts in the play. I would always be so proud of myself after I could read a whole page without looking, that I would run into my mom’s room to recite it back to her.
I put in time and effort to hear the story and this allowed me to experience how the characters felt and I was finally able to feel the emotions of the story, just like my Gram. I believe this experience still affects me and my reading today. It made me no longer view reading as a chore or just an assignment, but as something that can be fun and exciting. I am now able to be a confident reader and writer knowing that if my teacher asked my class, how we felt or related to a text, I would gladly raise my hand.