As much as I enjoy reading now, there was a time when I had a real hard time with reading.
I learned to read at a normal age, I think. However, I was a very slow reader. By the time I was in third grade all of my classmates were reading books like Heidi or Treasure Island and I was still reading beginner books. I was terrified of being called upon to read in class. At the end of third grade I was still no closer to feeling comfortable with my reading abilities, so my parents got me a tutor. She was an elderly lady who was having trouble getting me motivated to read aloud to her, I was too embarrassed. In order to motivate me, she offered to give me accordion lessons if I was able to finish reading the allotted daily number of chapters she had designated for me. It’s funny because I can’t now play the accordion; I forgot all that I learned, however I was greatly helped in my reading ability. I didn’t become an avid reader overnight, but I don’t remember ever again feeling terrified of reading after that summer. I shudder to think if she hadn’t helped me when I really needed it.
At the end of fifth grade I still felt that I was behind in my reading abilities compared to the rest of my class, or maybe it was in comparison to my mom. My mother is a very fast reader and I remember bringing home a book that I was supposed to read for school; it took me several days to read it. I gave it to my mother and she read it in less than two hours. That is when I decided I really needed to step up and get myself up to speed in the reading department. Literally! I don’t remember if someone told me to do this or if I read it somewhere, but I decided to pick a very uninteresting book and read it as fast as I could without skipping any words. I was not supposed to read for content, just make sure that I actually read every single word whether I understood what I was reading or not. I was to have my eyes follow along as fast as my finger could trace each word on the page. I looked around the house and finally settled on the most boring book I could find, the Autobiography of Madame Guyon. It looked very thick to me. I was determined and stubbornly performed this experiment with great earnestness. It took me several hours, but I finished it. The funniest thing of all is that I can still remember a lot of what I read in that book. As an adult I have thought many times that I should re-read that book, but I have never gotten around to it. My experiment was a complete success, as after that day I would say my reading speed improved by about 300%. A book that normally would have taken me over a week to read, I could now read it in two days at the most.
Now I get to the purpose of this post. I was 10 years old when I read Madame Guyon’s autobiography. Anyone who has read it would not consider it to be an appropriate book for children, not even for teens. In fact, my mother was very surprised when I told her I had read it. I chose it precisely because I thought it was going to be boring, but it turned out to be quite interesting. In fact, I think back and I believe that I was deeply impacted by the testimony of her story. I learned a lot of things that helped me greatly later in life. Several times in my life I can remember when I was in a tough situation that little golden nuggets of wisdom would come to my mind from the one and only time that I ever read that book. Personally, I find this to be fascinating since many books that I have read carefully in the attempt to burn the information into my brain are gone, I can’t remember the stuff at all.
The point I am trying to make is that children can read books that are meant for adults and be helped by them. I am not talking about “adult” books about sex, drugs and such. I am talking about true life stories that are positive learning experiences. This is why I hate when books are targeted to only certain ages. I still like to read books that are targeted for teenagers and/or boys and I am neither. Most people think that I wrote my book for the YA category, but I didn’t. As I have said numerous times, I wrote the book that I wanted to read personally. However, after I wrote my book I went through it and made sure that it was something I would feel comfortable with my mother and my sons reading, as well as my nephews and nieces.
I wish we could do away with the age level guidelines, I think they limit the reader instead of broadening their reading possibilities.