My children like to read. They just
do. This makes me lucky, I think, in no small part because it's something we all like in my house. No one has to feel left out or uncomprehending; it's a shared family love, sort of like chocolate ice cream.
There have been some bumps,
I guess. There was a time when Chestnut was struggling with the fact
that it was harder for her than it was for a lot of other kids to
decode the words and figure out what they said, and she would come home
and say "No! I won't read! I hate reading!" But somehow I
didn't really believe it, so I didn't worry about it much, and happily it just
So where is this going, you might wonder?
I had thought of myself as someone who made an environment that encouraged reading, or at least, welcomed it. That is, until we went to Sweden, and stayed in someone else's home with a Home Exchange. The girls got to stay in the room of the Swedish girls (loft beds instead of bunks, how thrilling!), and mounted on the wall of each of these beds was a reading light.
The joy with which each child stayed holed up in those Swedish loft beds, reading and manipulating her own reading light just so, was intense. And the embarrassment with which I thought about their room at home—overhead light so Chestnut had no light at all in the bottom bunk, while Diana was more or less blinded—was also, um, intense.
So when we returned home, and had an unexpected free weekend, we descended into the soul-destroying hell that is Ikea, and bought (among other things) a reading light for each girl, red for Chestnut, silver for Diana, along with an armchair, a fake leopard skin rug, and other library essentials. The lights were $7. Cue more intense embarrassment—how could this have taken us eight years to do?
It's true, I think, that the reading environment can change everything. And I even know that. Nonetheless, it took us a while. But now, at least, we have all the more reason to be sharply aware of the indescribable pleasure of having two happy girls, sitting quietly on their bunk beds with their reading lights, making their way through something or other, on a gray afternoon.