I used to think a child would love reading if I could just find the right book and place it in my library.
I used to think a child would love reading if I could just give them the time to read and the space to do it in.
I used to think a child would love reading if I was passionate about it and always shared what I was reading.
I used to think a lot of things.
Now I know that we cannot just have the right books in our library but they must be placed into the hands of children. Sometimes repeatedly. Sometimes by more than one person. Sometimes cleverly disguised with new covers or exciting book trailers. And sometimes we must accept that our favorite book will never be a favorite book of a certain child and so we must place another, and another, and another into their hands. Sometimes we must get them first to trust us to even open up their hands or hearts to us. Sometimes a book does that for us.
Now I know that it is not just about giving children time or space to read but choice in how to read and what to read. Even if that means that they hate the books we suggest, even if that means that they try on 10 books before settling, or 20, or 30. Even if that means that they sit on their desk to read, or lie under a table, or hide behind the door, or fling themselves on the floor. Reading does not have to happen at a desk, in a chair or sitting up. It just has to happen.
Now I know it is not just about me being a passionate reader but also giving students time to share their passion. It is about them finding their voice as readers and discovering the joy of having another child pick up a suggested book. About having a conversation about a book with someone who loved it as much as you, cried as much as you, yelled as much as you. I can share all I want but it is the students that need to discover their inner passion. They must have time to talk about books. They must have ways to share their favorites, their worst, their “I can’t wait to reads!” They must feel that their opinion matters, that their passion shapes our library. They must feel that reading time is sacred and not just another chore. They must know that reading matters and not just because the curriculum says so but because it shapes us as human beings.
I used to think reading was about going through books as fast as possible just so I could show how many I read. Now I know it is about savoring every one, experiencing it, and letting it change me. I try to give that moment to my students too. They taught me to slow down, to give more reading time, to talk more about the books I read. They taught me what it means to be a passionate reader by being passionate themselves, and for that I am forever grateful.