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Reading About Rainbows
I remember reading my first book like it happened merely moments ago. I was five and in Mrs. Mason's PM Kindergarten class. My friends Rebekah, Madeleine and I sat around our navy blue circular table. Rebekah was talking about how insane our teacher was. Usually this was one of my favorite things to talk about. Isn't Mrs. Mason insane? And I mean Insane with a capital 'I', someone would say and we'd always burst out laughing before we talked about all the weird things we'd see her do. Like pour salt into her coffee, or ask one of us if we had heard the lunch bell ring. Usually I would join in on these conversations, but today I wanted to do something else. I stared at the basket of books in the center with a longing.
“Don’t you get tired of looking at pictures all the time? Sometimes I wish I knew what the words say.” I said and I heaved a sigh. It sounded fake and I knew it, I looked up at my tablemates expectantly as I absentmindedly flipped through the book. Every now and then I stopped to admire an especially interesting picture. I had chosen what had always been one of my favorite books to look at. It was about rainbows, it had a brightly colored one on the cover and even though it had never appeared new, I always thought it was the best looking.
“Of course I wish I could read.” Rebekah said when she and Madeleine finally had a pause in their conversation. She snatched her own book from the basket in the center of the table.
“Me too,” Madeleine said and she followed suit, grabbing a book for herself. I smirked, proud of myself for successfully creating an opening. I flipped to the beginning of my book.
“All the Colors of the Rainbow” I said reading the book aloud to my friends. My voice wavered as I read, and I swallowed hard, I had practiced for this moment but I didn’t feel any less nervous. If I made a mistake would my friends look at me different, would they stop wanting to be friends with me? At first I read stiffly and carefully, but as I turned the pages it seemed like I was also turning pages in a book of my emotions. Soon I had turned past the part where I felt nervous. The only thing I felt after that was excited. I slammed the book shut as I finished and stood up. I curtsied dramatically and my friends giggled. They spent the rest of our free time picking out books for me to read.
I was a kindergarten girl who had grown up with two older brothers for bullies. Reading was my way into the world of praise. When I read to others I felt good. I saw them smile as I worked my way through words and I thought to myself for the first time, maybe I am smart. No longer were people looking at the shy, klutzy, little girl, they were looking at a little girl who could read. Not the little girl who could do sports but didn’t like them, or the little girl who could spit three feet, but the smart little girl who could finish a whole book by herself. They were looking at the me that was special. I had something that most of the other kids my age didn’t, the ability to read.
It took me a while to realize that when I read books to my friends they were smiling at the book and not at me. When they got angry, laughed or cried, I wasn’t the cause, it was the author. They smiled when I said I would read to them but that was because they were glad that they had someone to read a story for them. It wasn’t the fact that I was reading. That’s okay, I would think, it doesn’t matter if they aren’t laughing for me, they still need me to read to them. I’m still special.
But by the end of the year, even that had been taken me. I was no longer special. For some reason reading was no longer fun. Summer came and summer went. I spent it reading out loud to others. I was determined to become special again. Someday, I told myself, I will be the one to make them laugh and cry, not the writer but me. Someday, I will be special again. Before I knew it was time for first grade. I spent every spare moment I had reading. Half the year passed, and when I wasn’t with my friends my, you could bet that you would find me between the covers of some book.
Half the school year passed by with no significant events. It was January and I was reading one of my brother’s chapter books. It was stupid, but it kept me occupied. Mrs. Neiman walked by. She was my new teacher, she was strict, but I really liked her. She was perfectly sane and gave us candy. Whenever I saw her I always thought of how much better then Mrs. Mason she was.
“Oh, Maya!” She exclaimed, and she stopped in front of me. “That’s amazing; you’ve started reading chapter books!” Mrs. Neiman loved all things that had to do with words, so it was no surprise that one of her students reading a chapter book would excite her. To me, it wasn’t anything special; it was just a natural transition for me. Picture books had started getting boring, so I moved on. She started to talk again. “You must really love reading, seeing as how you’ve always got your nose buried in a book.”
I looked up from my book at Mrs. Mason, feeling startled. Why did I read so often? Did I really like books? I severed all thoughts of the book I was reading and focused on thinking, placing it on its spine. It was a bad habit of mine; most of the kids my age didn’t know it broke the binding. I did and I was trying to stop, it wasn’t good to hurt the books. I thought about why I started reading chapter books. I wanted something challenging, something exciting. So, I guess I could say reading was exciting, but did I like it? I thought back to when I read a book for the first time. Usually when I thought of that moment I could only remember the feeling I had gotten from all the praise. But today, I remembered something that I had forgotten about that day. I remembered how swept up I had gotten in reading about rainbows. That if I could read about rainbows the rest of my life I would have been happy. I remembered the joy I had felt from reading about rainbows, and learning things I had never known before. I smiled at the memory; I had my answer.
“Mrs. Neiman!” I called as my teacher walked away. She was probably tired of waiting for an answer. “I really do love reading, because reading is all about rainbows!” She looked back at me with a confused smile on her face. I just grinned as I picked my book back up; I knew the truth about reading now.
Reading isn’t about being special, it’s about the special feeling you get when you read. I don’t need it to be special, I’m fine just the way I am. Being klutzy and shy isn’t a bad thing; it’s a part of me. If people can’t see what a great girl I am, if that isn’t what they’re praising me for, then I don’t need their praise. Using reading as a tool to be special is wrong. Reading is something special all by itself. It does something that nothing else can do. It creates rainbows inside of you.