The first chapter book I ever remember being read to me was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I can vividly recall sitting on my dad’s lap in our rocker recliner chair listening to the sound of his voice while he read to me the chapter where Harry and Ron are being chased by the troll through the hallways of the school. The picture in my mind of the scene played out just like a movie, and I hadn’t even seen the movie yet!
It was at this moment that I knew books held something I wanted to get a hold of.
I don’t remember the process of learning to read. I’m certain I went through the same motions every kindergartener goes through to get there, by sounding out words and working on phonics and sight words. What I do remember, though, is receiving a letter in the mail a few weeks before 1st grade started from my new teacher. It was so exciting! I asked my mom to read me the letter, I can even remember where exactly in my house I was standing as it all happened. When I tried handing the paper to my mom, she returned it to me and said, “No, you can read it! You know how to read now!”
I doubted her, but slowly I read the letter my teacher sent, telling me how excited she was for me to join her in her first-grade classroom. She talked about all of the fun activities we would do, the things we were going to learn about, and the books we would read. I was especially excited about the books!
After finishing the letter, I looked up at my mom with pride in my heart. This was the first time in my life I felt like I had read something. Like, really read and fully comprehended what I had read. This wasn’t a small booklet of CVC and sight words strung together to make up some dinky early reader book. This was me picking up a paper with words and meaning and reading what my teacher wanted to say to me.
First grade ended up being magical and incredible and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, we have our very first library day. They sat us down at tables in the library where our sweet librarian told us all about the Dewey Decimal system and reading levels. After our short lesson, we were free to roam the stacks and choose a book to check out and bring home to read.
I stood in front of those bookshelves that seemed as if they were ten feet tall, completely overwhelmed by the number of options. How was I supposed to pick out the perfect book?! I searched and searched through shelf after shelf, becoming increasingly anxious that I was going to leave the library without a book to show for it.
I ran to my teacher for help, to which she responded in the most saintly way most first-grade teachers do.
She led me to a shelf near the back of the stacks and on the second shelf from the top to the far left, she pulled a book. Karen’s Witch by Ann M. Martin. It was the perfect reading level and the perfect genre for me. I started the first chapter as we walked back to the classroom…
“Hi. I am Karen Brewer. I’m six going on seven years old, and I think I’m very lucky. I’m lucky because I have two families. Most people only have one. But my brother Andrew and I have two.” -Ann M. Martin in Karen’s Witch
This was the moment my heart swelled with happiness as Karen and I became best friends.
This was the moment that I knew books were going to mean so much more to me than just words on a page.
It all started with the safety of being read to by trusted adults.
It solidified itself as I found meaning behind words and reading.
And then it really took off when I found a friend in books.
My love for reading fell fast and hard. I was hooked from such a young age and continued to read all of Karen’s novels, as well as the Harry Potter Series, Charlie Bone, Sideways Stories From Wayside School, The American Girl Series, and more and more and more.
This isn’t always the case for early readers. In fact, it can be the opposite most times.
But we as teachers and parents can foster their new experiences with books by helping them find safety, meaning, and friends as they explore the literature that speaks to them.
When was the first moment you fell in love with books?