Children begin to read in such varied and interesting ways. Some teach themselves to read, while others take a more circuitous path to get there. My own journey of learning to read is a great example of this. When I was around four or five, and the youngest of six, the Sunday funny pages (or funnies, as we called them), had an elevated status of awesomeness in my mind. I suspect this was because the funnies were often wrangled over, and everyone made such a big deal about getting to read them first.  

Being the youngest, I was often the last one to get my hands on them, and I vividly remember going from sibling to sibling begging one of them to read the funnies to me. When someone finally relented and took the time to sit down with me, I would put them through the ringer; questioning everything they read and accusing them of making it all up. (My husband is sure that at least one or two of my brothers did.) Fortunately for me, this lack of trust planted a seed deep in my heart…. one day I was going to read the funnies, and then I would know exactly what the words said. 

This determination to read followed me into kindergarten and first grade. I was eager, I was ready, I couldn’t wait. Unfortunately, my first-grade teacher had other ideas. She divided the class into two groups. The first got to learn to read, the second group worked on other things and—you guessed it—I was put into the second group. I was confused and humiliated, and wondered what was wrong with me. I remember stomping home from school and complaining to my mother in tears. In the end, there was nothing I could do except eavesdrop on the first group and try to figure out what made them so special. 

Then the glorious day came when the second group finally got our chance. It was so exciting! I eagerly opened the book that held the magic code, the keys to the kingdom, the beginning of a brand-new adventure…. the book? See Tip Run. Ugh! I had no idea that learning to read was going to be SOOO boring. It almost stopped me in my tracks, but that seed had been planted and taken root, and darn it, I was going to read those funny papers and prove once and for all that my brothers were an untrustworthy pack of tricksters! So, with a stubbornness and determination that became my middle name, I persevered. I tackled and mastered See Tip Run in record speed. I landed myself in the first reading group. I left those kids in the dust and started to read everything and anything I could find around the house. The set of Golden books? Toast. P.D. Eastman? Yesterday’s news! Dr. Seuss? That guy ended up under the bed, never to be seen again. I raided my brothers’ closets, finding and reading everything from the Hardy boys, Encyclopedia Brown to Spiderman comics and MAD Magazine. And let’s not forget the Sunday funny pages. Except now, instead of begging people to read them to me, I was pestering family members to let me read to them!  

I still recall the feeling of accomplishment, independence, and empowerment the ability to finally read gave to me. Fast forward 52 years later, and I find myself in the unique position of helping others along their own journeys of beginning to read. Reflecting on that, I really do feel like I have the best job in the world. There is just something so inspiring about seeing a child fall in love with reading and to be able to help it blossom and grow. Nothing brings me more joy than helping a child discover a book that seems just right for them and seeing their face light up. I mean, seriously, until you experience it, you have no idea how it can feed your heart and soul.  

So having said all that, with summer reading upon us, my hope for all the children I work with is that they can discover their own path to what reading means for them, and my promise as a children’s librarian is to support them in any way I can.