I sat at the kitchen table, doodling, attempting to look uninterested as my mother recalled to her friend a conversation she had with my fourth grade teacher.
“This is Ms. G., I’m calling to talk about Lisa’s behavior.”
“Yes, what is it?”
“Well, Lisa reads too much”
Perhaps hearing the silence on the phone or realizing how silly she must have sounded as an educator to utter those words, Ms. G. quickly went on to say “well, she reads during class and it is distracting.”
After coaxing more of an explanation from Ms. G., my mother asked if I was falling behind in class.
Ms. G. explained that I wasn’t, and despite me reading during lessons, I always got the answers right when she called on me.
My mother wanting to get on with her evening, thanked Ms. G and told her she would speak to me about it.
My mother laughing as she recounted the story to her friend, said “can you believe it? A teacher calling to complain that a student reads too much!?”
What Ms. G. didn’t know was that my mother had books called “What Every [insert grade] Should Know” and other educational books that my siblings and I had to study and learn before the upcoming school year. If Ms. G. further investigated and tried to understand why I read in class, she would have found I was bored; whatever she was teaching, I had already learned over the summer and when I didn’t read in class it meant it was something I didn’t know. She should have been trying to challenge me instead of bring me down, but I can go on and on about Ms. G.; that is for another day.
In the end I wasn’t disciplined by my mother, she just told me to pay attention and read on the school bus.
Unfortunately, these conversations happened all the time between me and my mother. For whatever reason, people were bold enough to opine she let me read too much.
They would ask her why I was sitting off to the side reading instead of playing with kids or why she let me read adult fiction books.
I have to give it to her, she never faltered under the pressure and continued to feed my interests in reading; I volunteered at the library, I took books from her own bookshelf, and she and my father even installed a ‘library’ in our basement.
Every time I finish reading a book, I am thankful my mother and father encouraged me to read and they did not pay any mind to the naysayers who thought I read too much.
I’m thankful they understood that I could be as silly as the next child, but when I found a new book, I was confident enough in myself to sit off to the side at birthday parties and read, not caring what everyone thought.
You would think as I got older those type of questions would dissipate, but no, people still say to me “I don’t know how you do it” or “why are you reading if it isn’t for a school assignment?” I want to give some curt response, but instead I just shrug and say I don’t know.
But, maybe next time someone says “Lisa, you read too much.” I will respond “And you [insert word] too much”
Keep reading people! And if you don’t, start.
An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.
Photo Credit: Alan Levine