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The reader I am.
I walk into the library early in the morning, look all around at the new large print books and audio books stacked and or placed neatly upon row after row of shelves, and marvel at just how quiet it actually is. The reason it's so quiet is not that people have their heads in some raunchy romance novel, a murderous mystery, a benevolent biography, a sarcastic satire, or a new novella, but that there is only a solitary person in this vast empty space. When I check out the book, and laugh gaily as I discuss the main theme in “The Giver’ with the librarian, I suddenly realize that there is only one person in here, and who it will forever be. It is I.
One of the principles that makes this country great is our freedom to say, write, and read whatever we want.
I took advantage of that fact from an early age. When I was first conceived I soon after dived into the vast spectrum of literature. Not long after I flew past the eight-year-old mark, my reading tastes were as wide as a huge girth. I was huge into series, particularly mystery series, or books with people acting in a manner that was not the norm. Many detectives were my closest of friends, including Sherlock Holmes, Encyclopedia Brown, and Nancy Drew was just a few I hung out with every day after school.
As I grew and matured so did my reading habits. Usually people just read books because they had to. Usually other people in my grade in school hated to read for enjoyment, and would rather watch TV instead. I was like a silent whiz kid. Each day some new book would find its way into my hand, and I found the pages I held between my fingers were better company than the actual human beings around me were. C.S. Lewis wrote, “The child who has once met Mr. Badger [a character in The Wind in the Willows] has ever afterwards, in its bones, knowledge of humanity and of English social history which it could not get in any other way.”
I often wonder about how I reached the reading level I am at presently. I have gone past reading and now I am in the “critiquing” phase. I think that is a point that everyone gets to eventually, where they contemplate and question about what they are reading, why they are questioning it, and challenging the author. I, by a stroke of good reading, have reached that point in my life a tad bit earlier than most.
I know that I consider myself a good reader because I question and contemplate. When I was zipping through the Harry Potter series questioning about plot development, when I was slamming my head on the desk after dragging through some awful dialogue choice in a Goosebumps book, when I was pondering about what literary elements “The Giver” had in its pages, I knew then that I was a good reader. Christine Cziko, one of the authors of What Is Reading? An Excerpt from Reading for Understanding, said it best in the following quote. “As experienced readers read, they begin to generate a mental representation, or gist, of the text, which serves as an evolving framework for understanding subsequent parts of the text.”
Christine Cziko also states in this excerpt “Some current approaches to supporting adolescent reading improvement address students' word-level reading problems as a precondition for working on other levels of reading improvement.” Luckily, I never had to endure a boost of my vocabulary. My understanding of words and concepts was, and will always be above average. This was quite evident in my younger school days.
School is quite the interesting playground.
All throughout my young school years, I was a veracious reader. My reading flew past other people in my grade, not because of my speed, but because of my understanding.
What makes a good reader? This question is somewhat answered in the article “What Is Reading?” if being engaged in every text my ears or fingers danced over makes up a good reader, if someone wishes to dive more into the text, to have a conversation or a debate with the author, are they a good reader? These authors of the above-mentioned essay think so.
I fell into being a “good reader” a long time ago and have remained there ever since. Many times in high school, my reading ability proved itself to me countless times.
When our class was studying situational irony, my ability shot my brain past the level of my peers. I was so excited that I pointed out something interesting; I did not stop and think about my class. My teacher however would not carry on that long intellectual debate speculating about the author. I loved being the king of literature. I maybe cannot discern every word that is tossed my way, but if you toss a concept near my outstretched mind, expect me to grab it and hold on tightly until my mind is finished stripping it apart to gaze at its insides.
Do I fit into that category that is defined in the “What Is Reading” article? Well, let us look at the characteristic. The writers say that good readers are engaged in the text, motivated, socially active around reading, and strategic. I am all those characteristics and more. If given a crude rank, I would have to say that I am a good reader. Of course, there will always be a “better” reader than I am at this moment, but I think I am actually a “good” reader. Alternatively, something also comes bundled with one of my skills. That is the skill of writing.
My writing, forever deep and metaphorical and sometimes whimsical, developed a bit slower than my reading ability. Up until middle school, I did not have a writing style. My writing was homeless. It did not have consistency. It kept fluctuating into all sorts of weird mismatched essays. It took many years to discover where my writing stood with myself. My quest, ironically, began with reading to try to find my style. I felt a tad slow, being in middle school and I have not developed a signature writing style. Every author I read wrote very different from any other. My early writing days were spent just on that massive quest to find the holy grail, to find my own style.
My older writing was wacky. However, many middle schoolteachers complimented on my creativity and quick wit. I did not quite understand what that meant. Many authors were like that. Generically “creative” and “quick witted.” Every time they said that, I just fumed. I then vowed to define what sort of writer I was. I set out to find my style. I began writing more than ever, so my writing at that young age was a lot more active than it is now.
As I grew older, I would like to think that my writing just wanted to take over. I soon had two developing talents inside of me, and I wanted to play with one of them. My writing began having an identity of its own, which was a little irritating. I spent countless years looking for some sort of writing personality and one starts to develop in high school? I was perplexed.
My writing soon had an ever-lasting command of its own. It seemed to love to play with people’s emotions with clever pitches of metaphor, simile, and just down to earth realism. My writing is, and was, strong, poignant, funny, witty, deep, sad, clever, and gifted. My writing has shaped into my hair, my hands, my figure, and my soul. My writing has shaped into me. Of course, even though my writing is powerful, there are some flaws that my writing has on throughout juncture. Some of these come in the form of comma splices, sentence fragments, split infinitives, and comma uses. My spelling is also something that has to be desired, but hey, everything has spell check these days.
It is funny how people define me, and how I define other people. I am a writer and a reader, and I always have been. I am sure many authors have called themselves writers for a long time now. I am part of that group and I hope to graduate to the precious title of being an author. I already am a reader. I know my skill, and proficiency. That is reading. I am a writer and reader. I guess I am lucky in a sense. Sometimes I feel like there is skin upon the world. That those of us, who are created under it, can see through it. We just cannot get through it. By me figuring out my gifts and insight early, I believe I have peeled back that skin, had allowed the writer and reader in me to stand as tall as my critical eye can take me.
I believe in all I have seen with books, authors, with terrible grammar and wonderful character development, I have done something more than just write and read. I believe I have done something remarkable. Todd Gitlin, in “The Liberal Arts in an Age of Info-Glut,” wrote, “Amid the weightless fluff of a culture of obsolescence, here is Jane Austen on psychological complication, Balzac on the pecuniary squeeze. Here is Dostoyevsky wrestling with God, Melville with nothingness, Douglas with slavery … In a culture of chaff, here is the wheat.” I believe that I have done something that we all have neglected to do. I took the initiative to, not define myself, but shape myself. I am proud, as a writer and reader to accomplish that. I am able to study ideas and principles that have endured for centuries. I am proud to have done my job well. I hope to continue.
St. Joseph, Missouri
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