Literacy Narrative Part 1
I began my reading career feeling inferior to those around me. In Kindergarten all of my friends–at least it felt like–were reading at a third grade level, while I lagged behind. I remember walking past the bookshelves in our low ceiling classroom looking for books I knew would be at my level. One day I looked over a classmate’s shoulder and saw the inside of a book named “Drip, Drap, Drop” and realized that its limited use of text and plentiful illustrations would be just right for my reading level. However, when I saw this book on the shelf, I didn’t pick it up for fear of anyone seeing that I couldn’t read anything harder than a picture book. I stepped towards the “reading level 2” section of the bookshelf instead, and without much deliberation picked up “Amelia Bedelia,” a favorite of all the advanced readers. I sat down on the red plastic surface of my padded naptime mat and set the book next to me. Sitting two mats over to my right I could see Cassandra, my “best-friend” and idol, reading the same book, and a contented grin came over my face. The teachers dimmed the overhead lights so I settled into my position, my back against a bookshelf filled with wooden blocks. I opened to the first page and looked around at the images. I knew that advanced readers would take longer to read texts, so I counted in my head until an appropriate amount of time had passed to make it look like I was actually reading.
From a young age I compared myself to those around me and concealed my insufficiencies, rather than working to improve them. I was too embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t a good reader so I kept my lack of ability a secret to everyone around me. In first grade when we started keeping mandatory reading journals, I would embellish the amount of reading I had actually done, which I did not keep secret from my mom when I would ask her to sign the log. She merely sighed and she scribbled her name, realizing all those years of reading to me every night hadn’t promoted a love of reading within me. This animosity towards reading carried on through my first years in high school, and I defined myself as a slow reader, and avoided the activity when I could.
Despite my dislike of reading, I always loved creative writing. “Free-writing” was when I could unleash my inner dialogue onto a page. When my sixth grade humanities teacher introduced our “Two Minute Mystery” assignment, I was immediately enthralled with the project. We had simultaneously started reading Agatha Christie novels, and for the first time I was consumed by a reading assignment. I read several more novels that month and by the time it came to writing the mystery vernacular was ingrained in me. To this day, I still consider my short mystery as one of my best pieces of writing. Nevertheless, the short time we spent writing wasn’t enough to make me become an active reader, and just a few months after we moved on to a new unit in humanities, I stopped reading Agatha Christie.
Excluding the Hunger Game series, the next time I picked up a book for the sole purpose of reading and enjoying it, was at Mountain School in the spring of my Junior year. I had never before been surrounded by so many people my age who loved reading for fun, even in their busy lives, and I was inspired to finally get back into reading after a long hiatus. Since then I have continued to read, though my spare time has been limited, and have come to find that I’m not such a bad reader after all.
Left: My Image, taken by my father Kent Wallgren, c. 2006 (Kindergarten)
Right: My Image, taken by my father Kent Wallgren, c. 2007 (First Grade)