Monday, June 26, 2017

To a Boy Named Harry

I recently shared the following story with a coworker who told me that this really was an inspiring story, and would have shared it with social media immediately had they had my permission. Since I’m not at all ashamed of it, I will do the hard part of putting it into writing.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a voracious reader. However, reading has not always come easily to me. I was a bit of a late bloomer but it went mostly unnoticed by my teachers for a while. I’ve been told that I managed to memorize my favorite books. I don’t remember how, but eventually, my ruse was found out. I like to imagine that two pages stuck together while turning but I was still “reading” what was supposed to come next. I do remember the summer going into second grade: I spent every day going to school to be tutored in reading.

Even after that all that was done and school had begun, I was still behind. It was agonizing. Any book without pictures, and especially chapter books, felt more like punishment than anything else. I struggled with anything more advanced than Amelia Bedelia. It was definitely not something that I would have done for fun. I never finished the books that the other kids my age were reading. I think I finished one Magic Treehouse book under a threat of some sort. My mother was at her wit's end. She didn’t understand the disconnect: she had learned to read in preschool and my older sister in kindergarten. She was convinced that if I just read the right book, I would come to love it.

Finally, at the end of second grade, she heard about a new children’s book. It had come out the year before. She read it (because she always read the books she made us read, she thought it was only fair) and knew that I had to read it. Shortly thereafter, she dragged me to a bookstore and bought me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and insisted I read it. I was so angry that she was trying to foist another book on me. But she didn’t give me a choice. She was going to consider it school work. I grudgingly started it, and promptly lost it, for months.

It probably wasn't an accident, though I have no memory of doing it on purpose. Eventually, the book was located and I started to read it in earnest. I finished the first chapter, and then the second, and suddenly I was on chapter sixteen, Harry was facing Fluffy and going through the trapdoor. By the end of the book, I was sold. I LIKED reading this book. After Harry Potter, I finally understood that reading was not a punishment, but rather one of the best things that would ever happen to me. Flash forward eighteen years and I work in a library hoping to make it a professional career. And I owe it all to my mother and a boy named Harry.

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