Take a Deep Breathe and... Read

February 7, 2009
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When I try to look back into my literary past, most of what I can recall is a patchwork of distant images, with the glossy appearance of picture book pages. However, there is one experience I will have forever etched in my mind. My most distinct memory is reading Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne, a book in which two young children are whisked into the prehistoric past by a magical tree house. As the first chapter book I read to myself, this experience is just as clear to me as if it happened this morning.
The stiff pages cracked and snapped in an inviting tone as I gently opened my very first chapter book- Dinosaurs Before Dark. Before turning to the first page, I paused to take in the wonderful, musky scent of my brand new book. When I realized how close I was to attempting to read my very first chapter book, I closed it in anxious anticipation. In order to put off the task for a bit longer, I laid the book in the grass and concentrated on the cool spring air around me. I wrapped the blanket I lay on around my chilled knees and tried to relax my now tense muscles. Listening to the morning birds chirping in harmony, I decided now was as good a time as any to conquer the difficult chore I had before me. Though I had been reading for over two years, never had I undertaken the challenge of an 80-page book complete with ten whole chapters. I inhaled heavily while picking my book up off the ground; the scent of freshly cut grass filled the air while I picked wet blades from the glistening cover. Without stopping to deliberate any longer, I turned to the first page to begin.
I was amazed at the fluidity of the words while I read; I didn't stumble or stagger over the sentences as I had anticipated. Instead, I found myself being sucked into the pages. The magic tree house was transporting me back in time to prehistoric days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I was standing next to Jack and Annie, adventuring through the old Earth with them. It was not until later that I realized the book had diminutive illustrations compared to my normal picture books, yet I had not noticed. My mind was filling in the blanks for me, creating its own world from the words in front of me. This is amazing, I thought. In the picture books I read, I envisioned nothing more than what the illustrations depicted to me. With this chapter book, I could use my imagination with no limitations. All the anxiousness I had felt before starting melted away as I sank into Dinosaurs Before Dark. I felt my tense muscles uncoil while I immersed myself into the reading. My other thoughts soon faded from my mind, and the book consumed all my attention. I paused to take one last look at the beautiful day surrounding me before I was wholly consumed, and smiled to myself as I turned another page of my first chapter book.
My experience reading Dinosaurs Before Dark is so vivid in my memory; it was my first time taking the step from picture books to reading a chapter book. It was also when I discovered the true power of reading. Reading my primary chapter book opened my imagination and allowed me to feel as if I was a character in the book, rather than someone reading it. This experience was when I first lost myself in a book, and I haven't slowed down since then. I also remember it so well because it taught me that longer books are not necessarily harder or less interesting to read; the quantity of a book's pages will not determine its quality. For these reasons, my memories of my first chapter book will never fade.





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