Retro Wednesday: A Blog Post

Let’s Kick It, Old School

As many of you may or may not know, I haven’t always been a reader. Sure, I read quite a bit when I was growing up, but more often than not it was a school assignment of sorts, blech. My mom read me stories from the day I was born until the day I stopped asking her to read to me  I wasn’t a reader, I didn’t belong to the book world and the book world didn’t belong to me. My mom read to me, that is her thing, she really enjoys reading stories to kids.

My mom read me stories from the day I was born until the day I stopped asking her to read to me, and at that point, I was reading to her. In middle school, I don’t remember much outside of book reports… lots of them. I hated book reports. I have so much passionate hate for them that I remember the layout they gave us. I didn’t read any of those books in middle school. I skimmed and skipped. I wasn’t a reader.

Junior-high (6th – 8th grade for me) was delightful, we did in class reading, and popcorn-reading. Popcorn-reading is when you read aloud for a paragraph of more and then you announce ‘Popcorn’ and call the name of a classmate to continue reading where you left off. This was brutal. We were pre-teens who just started feeling the effects of puberty, we were mean and vindictive, and we had no business reading aloud, but we sure as hell followed along because it was embarrassing to be caught in a ‘Popcorn’ and not know where the hell you are in the book. I always called on either a boy or my best friend. A boy because I wanted to hear his voice crack in and out, and my best friend because she always followed along. My best friend did the same to me, and we both actually read pretty well aloud, I am pretty sure we sounded like robots though. I enjoyed reading a lot more in junior-high than in middle school – although middle school was frustrating as well. I could read circles around most of my classmates then… them aloud and me in my head… but I think that is the way it always goes.

But I wasn’t a reader.

I remember going to the library in 8th grade, we all had to pick books to keep us quiet and busy during state testing. I had no problem being quiet, but I picked a book. The Witches by Roald Dahl. I actually read it. The very next day I went to the library and picked up The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I didn’t read that.

High school (grades 9-12) are years that I still have mixed feelings about when it comes to reading, and other things, bad decision things. Those bad decisions have very little to do with academics though.

In 9th grade, we studied Shakespeare with zero guidance from our teacher. I am fairly certain that she wasn’t very well versed in it either because every student received a C in her class. We didn’t get it, she didn’t teach it, and our final was a group project on translating Romeo & Juliet. The highlight of that class was watching the boys fawn over the young hot teacher, who coveted the days she sat on her stool in a skirt. I suppose I could have written about that in our final. Then again I probably would have been pulled into the principal’s office and questioned about things I knew nothing about. It wasn’t until a few years ago, that not this teacher but another was busted for having a long term relationship with a student. So I will take that C+ and the memory of all of the little boys drooling over their teacher and stuff it in my back pocket. I preferred Othello anyway.

Sophomore year was spectacular as far as books go, as a kid of only 15 -16 maybe, it wasn’t so great. My 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Chaney, was probably the best teacher I ever had. He sent me a friend request on Facebook the other day, I haven’t added him yet. He likes to correct my grammar. Once an English teacher always one. All joking aside, he taught with a passion that most don’t have anymore. He loved English and literature, and he truly loved his job. We used to have to write in our journals on certain topics, it was free writing, and the topic never to specific, but he actually read them, or at least for sure he read mine. Everyone wanted to be in his class, and I was one of the lucky few randomly placed there. We didn’t just read, in fact, we were often read to and Mr. Chaney’s voice was intoxicating, Mike Rowe and Sam Elliot made a voice baby intoxicating. The text sprang to life, and suddenly I was a young Richard White. Our learning didn’t stop at the written language, we watched movies as well like Willow, and Mask, we learned a lot more about humanity and acceptance, compassion, and all around how to be good people. We also wrote our own stories, one of mine was used as an example according to later years…. I would love to have that story back, heck I would have love to have seen the edits the students in the following years had marked. I didn’t mention that part before, probably because I just remembered it. One assignment was correcting a previous student’s work. Looking back now I feel honored to know that one of mine made it to the final cut. It was a group project, I won’t leave credit out there. After all of that, I still wasn’t a reader.

Junior year. I was buckling down for college with electives. I took 3 or 4 electives that year. I had an English class the first half of the year and an elective reading/writing class. I think it had a quirky name, at least for high-school. Then again I had a quirky teacher. The Regular English Teacher at the first half of the year was the same one I had for my elective. He was quirky. He is a poet. If that doesn’t describe him, I don’t know what does. He was a little off beat, and we all tried to keep up with him. We read a lot of Vonnegut’s work in this class. Vonnegut is one of my favorites, I am pretty sure I have read all of his books. We did very little writing in this class, aside from taking notes or writing them. I read every single one of Kurt Vonnegut’s works. We also read that one book with Leonardo Di Caprio in it…. Not Catch Me If You Can, but that other one… with the face… by F. Scott Fitzgerald… I know the name. I could also google the name… The Great Gatsby. Apparently, I preferred the movie.

Senior year I didn’t take English, but I took Trigonometry, Spanish – I TA-ed in Spanish, and Govt/Econ. I wish I could have had 4 years of that. And at one point I had a History class based solely on debates. Regardless, I wasn’t a reader.

I wasn’t a reader, I didn’t belong to the book world and the book world didn’t belong to me.

I didn’t feel like a reader until I picked up my first book outside of school, that book happened to be an Indie book. I fell in love with reading all over again; I felt like a reader. That was only in 2013. Only 4 years ago, and now I am a book blogger, which most days I don’t feel like I am one, but that’s another post.

I was always a reader, sometimes I was a student who had reading assignments, sometimes the teachers didn’t elicit a passion for reading and sometimes they did. And sometimes I was a young child listening to the story as I finger walked the pictures.

I was always a reader, but I never felt that way, not until that fateful day in 2013 when I read a free independently published book and fell head over heals in love with the Indie community and the many ways I could talk about, support and share my favorite books. Not only that but I could find new books by listening to others. 2013 was a great year for books, and I really loved the community then. It wasn’t what it is like now, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong now exactly, but it is just not the same. That is why I love these Retro Posts, why I love finding a new really greatly written book from that era.

I hope you enjoyed my flashback, it was a ton of fun reliving those memories and sharing them with you.