The face in the mirror

April 25, 2008 at 2:23 pm 1 comment

(Author’s note: I’m currently typing with one of my cats stretched out in my lap so that she’s actually lying on Both of my arms. I feel like this should be an olympic event for bloggers.)

“The Face in the Mirror, the Person on the Page” really got me thinking about the label of “reluctant reader.” What does a young adult who’s been told time and time again that she’s not a reader, or a poor reader, or that she doesn’t like to read (think kids aren’t listening to the way adults talk about them? Think again) think when she finally picks up a book? Maybe it’s a novel for English class. Maybe it was sitting on a coffee table. Maybe the cover caught her eye in Powell’s. However that book got to her hands, it might leave just as quickly if she’s convinced that she’s a reluctant reader.

Identity is about more than self-image. Particularly in our formative years, identity is also an amalgam of other people’s hopes, desires, wishes and threats, and our own perceptions of the same. The way we praise some students and admonish (or worse, ignore) others influences the way those young adults see themselves and each other.

I often talk about what a positive educational experience I’ve had for most of my life. I had some wonderful elementary and high school teachers, and middle school was really only miserable because of the existence of middle school girls. But the Sig Fig is usually quick to point out that a lot of teachers gave me attention because it was clear I was bright and would be successful throughout school. “You were always going to do well,” she says. “What about the other kids?”

It’s a valid question.

I knew how to read before kindergarten and was reading well above my grade level when I entered first grade. As a result, I never used the reading books my classmates all had, with the beloved anteater and sunset-filled front covers. I can’t remember what I did read that year, but I can vividly recall how I longed to read what everyone else was reading. Never mind that I might have read it much too quickly for the pace of the class or have been bored by the stories themselves; I honestly resented being separated from my peers. I was proud of my reading skills, yes, since they carried a certain weight with adults, but at some level I wanted what everyone else had. I can only imagine the feelings of the students whose reading skills were below the bulk of the class.

I’m on the verge of rambling and still haven’t really figured out the point of this post, so I’ll end with a question: what kind of reader are you today, and how do you think that identity was shaped by your reading experiences when you were younger?


Entry filed under: books, Education. Tags: , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Linda  |  May 2, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    This is interesting to me partly because of the opposite way things worked/work for me. I grew up knowing myself to be a reader. It was something very important in my family and I was always reading – as were my mother and father. However, today, I don’t consider myself a reader. I read, but I don’t read anywhere near as much as I used to. And, to some extent I wonder if I read more out of the sense that I was supposed to rather than it was what I wanted to do. I did like to read and today when I find a really good book that I get into I love to read. But, it doesn’t compel me in the way that I think it used to, or that I think I thought it used to.

    If that makes sense?


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