Ms. B has inhaled Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Opened her mouth and shoved the whole mess down in a little over two days. She also insisted that I read it with her so we could “have a book club” on it.
In many ways, Ms. B. is the opposite of my child-self. For the most part, I’ve considered this a blessing. I’ve been thankful that she’s managed to successfully dodge some of my more absurd neuroses. But the one difference that always has bummed me out is that she hasn’t been as passionate about reading as I remember being as a child. I don’t actually remember “learning” how to read. It was something that came pretty naturally to me and I certainly don’t ever think my parents “made” me read. I loved reading and I loved books. I remember one summer, when I was around Ms. B’s age, deciding that I was going to try and read every book in the fiction section of the children’s library. I never made it, but I happily worked my way through the stacks, devouring as many books as I could, many of them in just a day or two. (Side note: This may have affected my social life. This was also the year I was always chosen last for the lunch line. . .)
Ms. B has been the absolute opposite. In Kindergarten, when it came time for her to learn to read, it was a struggle. Books and reading had always been a big part of our house, but Ms. B was perfectly content to let D and I continue to do all the reading. We had to drag her writhing, kicking and screaming into independent reading. There were many nights where we would sit in the living room, Ms. B in frustrated tears, myself clueless as to how I could help, a level one early reader in between us. We had to make her read, dictating first ten minutes a night, then fifteen, twenty, now thirty. This reading time was frequently all it took to unravel an otherwise peaceful evening. Towards the end of third grade, and more so over the summer, something started to click for Ms. B. It didn’t seem like it was as frustrating for her. But it also wasn’t exactly something she loved. She still would only read when I would harass her about it. I was beginning to begrudgingly accept the fact that a passion for books just might be something that Ms. B and I would never share. We’d taught her how to read, but we couldn’t teach her to love it.
Among the Hidden has been different. There was no “making” Ms. B read this book. I would pick her up from school, and she would be holding it in her hand so that she could read it for the two block trip home. Getting her to do her homework those two nights was the easiest it’s ever been: she wanted to finish quickly so she could get back to her book. If she wasn’t reading the book, she was talking about the book, and if she wasn’t talking about the book it was because she was asleep. At one point we were running errands and I looked over at her in the passenger seat: She was hunched up over the book, her shoulders tense and her eyes wide. She was so absorbed, I could have told her that I’d finally decided to buy her that pony and it wouldn’t have even registered. It’s just one book, but it has made me so happy: Maybe, just maybe, she’s finally learning to love it.