How A Summer Book Report Punishment Led to a Lifetime Love of Reading

Saturday, June 10, 2017

  I remember sitting in my mother's Sunday School class when I was about 8 years old. My mother, a vibrant and beautiful 28-year-old, would lead us in songs, Bible readings, and prayer every Sunday around 9:30 in the morning. I didn't mind going to Sunday School and the fact that my mother was my teacher didn't bother me in the slightest. However, I was very self-conscious about my atypical reading ability.

  Between 6 and 8 years old, my reading skills had skyrocketed. I was a voracious reader and had just begun to tire of books that included pictures. I was one of the best readers in my class and I was beginning to develop an expansive vocabulary. Unfortunately, I did not like reading with greater fluency than my friends. I thought it made me seem like I was different and that I didn't fit in.

     In that very same Sunday School class, my mother asked me to read a paragraph out loud from the children's version of the Sunday School reader. I remember intentionally stumbling through words and reading at a slower pace than normal. A couple of the other kids in the class (minus my precocious 4-year-old brother) read with limited fluency by stumbling over words and reading at a sluggish pace. So essentially, I mirrored their reading competency in an attempt to finally fit in. In my head, that was how normal 8-year-olds read, so it was crucial that I get with the program.

   However, although my academic skills were actually on par, my logical reasoning skills were lacking since one should never actually read below their skill level in front of their own parent. That was a bad idea and my college-educated mother was not amused.

   In response to my ill-fated attempt at peer acceptance, my mother ordered me to read the entire book series of my favorite TV Show at the time, "Wishbone", which was a show about a dog who loves to read classic literature. Instead of working on the supposed foundational reading skills I was lacking, my mother decided to force me to read an entire series of mini-novels.

I ended up loving the series but my mother added the stipulation that I had to write a book report after each book I completed. I can't quite remember how many books I finished, the books were approximately 100 pages each, but this project took up my entire 3rd-grade summer. So what was I doing during the Summer of '98? Reading. Lots and lots of reading.

   This consequence of my actions in Sunday School, resulted in my love of reading entire book series even into adulthood. After "Wishbone", I indulged in the "American Girl" series and later began reading books that tied to a specific historical theme that I was interested in such as 17th Century Europe. I was always reading. I used to spend my allowance money on the next book in a series that I was trying to finish. Going to Barnes and Noble on a Saturday with my mother would just make my heart flutter. She had instilled in me a love of written language that would never cease.

   Surrounded by mother's college books that she kept on a bookshelf, I was influenced to create my own book collection. Book by book I added my own favorite stories and inspiration. I was no longer ashamed to stand out and be the book worm that I knew I was on the inside. I loved words, I loved writing, and I loved reading. Thanks to the boost of confidence from my pro-books mother, my life would eventually revolve around books from teaching, to blogging, to becoming a children's author myself.


  1. Ms. Johnson, I absolutely love this post. Getting a glimpse into your childhood is magical and endearing.