Ms. Annabelle Lee

I’m not one to label – at least I try not to. I often say that I’m NOT this or that but if there was one area of my life that I will gladly accept a label it is that – I’m a reader. From the moment I opened the hymnal at church before I could see over the pew in front of me, I could read. I don’t know how it happened or exactly when but it always seemed like I was born reading. If you can’t find me, you can bet I’m hiding somewhere with a book. When I was a kid, my family would tell me to stop reading and go outside. Not that my family doesn’t read but they aren’t readers in the same vein that I have always been. It has always been my escape, my love and was my undergrad major.

Our house could easily collapse from an overload of reading material and bookshelves. My partner and I didn’t go to bars or dancing when we were dating, we went to all night bookstores. So, you can imagine my horror when my daughter down right refused to let me read to her. I wasn’t the greatest pregnant woman or the most profuse breast feeder and I’m not the most patient of mama’s but I knew I could make up for it all with my shared love of books and the amount of time I could sit reading and reading and reading to my daughter. She had two complete bookshelves of books before she was even born and children’s books are mighty thin, so just imagine 500 or so tingly-fresh new and old books for us to discover together.

Her Daddy read Edgar Allen Poe to her while she was in utero, I read prenatal books to her while gestating, I read to her while nursing, giving her baths and while we lay in bed together. But, the moment she could reach out and take something from me, the first thing she demanded were our precious books. NO MORE READING FOR MAMA. “I want to do it.” I want to read the book,” were her words back at me. I pleaded and begged to be able to have just one book to read aloud but she would have none of it. She of the independent type (except when not) put a ban on me and my favorite activity. She reads to herself for hours, especially non-fiction books about animals but I’m not allowed to chime in with any of the text. We can talk about what might be going on and she tells me her own story but I cannot give any input.

I think the stories she makes up are simply more interesting to her than what is on the written page. So, I thought that we could read side by side. I would pile her and my books up together on the bed and she could read her books and I could read mine but this wasn’t to happen either. She would read one of her books to herself and she wanted me to read one of her books to myself. I’m all for reading her books to her but I’m really looking for more of a plot if I’m going to be reading silently to myself.

Then, low and behold, on a night like any other, after fighting the good fight to get into bed. We piled the books on the bed and she gave me some kiddy lit. to read and she began to read to herself. I’m a believer in kids doing what they need to do to get what they need from the world so I’ve never pushed the reading issue. I even had someone tell me that because she wants to only read on her own, that it was a sign of an early reader (something I don’t really care about anyway – she’ll read when she’s ready.) But this night for some reason I was determined and as we lay there I began to read aloud and for once she didn’t tell me off or say; “Stop reading mom.” She just looked over at the book I had in my hand and followed along with me. I read “The Okay Book” by Todd Parr and she LET ME!!!

It was amazing, thrilling, and full of all the feelings I had been missing. Then she wanted me to read it again. She still held on to her own book and semi-pretended that she was reading on her own and not listening but her eyes were glued to all the ways to be OKAY (she especially loved finding out that it’s okay to wear a fish in your hair – how we howled at that page!) After two reads, she took the book from me and read it out loud to me with almost all the words correct – whew! So we’ll see if it continues and I still feel a bit like I’m tricking her into it but it’s what I love and if it hinders her from being an early reader then so what (yeah – whatever – like that’s ever going to happen!)

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