100 pages or less… that’s all I got in me.

When I was in Ms. Sloans’ third grade class, they split us up by reading levels. Most of the kids in my reading level whipped through War and Peace in preschool. But I was not one of those kids. I hated reading.

Book report time made my stomach churn. Ms. Sloan dropped a list of approved books on each of our desks while we fidgeted in our blue, plastic chairs.

“Pick one from your reading level!” she said.

All I could think was, which one’s the shortest?

During library time, I walked past shelf after shelf of books, letting my finger bump along the spines until I found one of the books on the list. Without glancing at the cover, I flipped to the last page.

“142 pages.  Nope.” I slapped the book shut. I had never read a book over 100 pages and had no intention to start now. I found every book on the list. Flipped to every last page and put most of them back. The book I finally settled on looked boring, but it was only 87 pages (87 pages, I never finished).

I’m not honestly sure how I got away with not reading a novel until fourth grade, but it was Ms. Jensen, a 4’10” ball of spunk, that caught me in my fib.  She called me to her desk and asked me outright if I had every finished a novel. I felt my heart run to hide in my throat. How had she found out? My mom? I couldn’t find the words to answer, so I shook my head no.

“Maybe you haven’t found the right author.” She stared at me. “Let’s try Lois Lowry. Today in library, look at all of her books. Find one that looks interesting to you, and that’ll be your book report book.”

I found Anastasia Again. All 160 pages pages of it (gulp). I read it all that afternoon. I read it all the next afternoon, and before too long, I’d finished it. And… I loved it.

“Great!” she said, when I told her my good news. “Now let’s try some others.” She recommended Beverly Clearly’s Ramona books, Ann Martin’s Babysitters Clubs series and on and on. I read them all, and loved them all.

It was the stories I fell in love with, not the reading. Ms. Jensen (and Lois Lowry) taught me that once I was caught up in the story I stopped caring about the page number. I learned to love the characters. They felt like real people. People who went to my school, people who went to my pool. And because I cared about them, I cared about their stories.

For anyone who claims they don’t like reading I say, hogwash! Everyone has a character they can relate to. Someone that can pull you into their world; make you laugh, make you cry, make you wonder. You just have to start looking. Some of them might even be in those darn books over 100 pages.

Happy reading storytime, everyone!

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6 thoughts on “100 pages or less… that’s all I got in me.

  1. I was not a born reader as a kid. It took awhile for me to come to reading… to find books (and characters) that resonated with me. Now I love to read. Novels are like a luxury. That said, I can totally relate to your reading life as a kid!

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  2. I was the opposite of you and Stacey; I was a born reader. When I became a teacher, I was disheartened by how many of my students hated to read, and I quickly realized I had to help them discover their love of reading by, as you share in your post, helping them find characters to believe in, to relate to, and to love! There’s nothing better than to have a child, previously resistant to read, come to you and ramble on about the book they just finished 🙂 Thanks for reminding me of this!

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    • Thanks for showing the flip side of the coin. I love teachers that are passionate, like you. I know without Ms. Jensen’s passion I wouldn’t love reading and writing like I do!

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  3. What a nice reflection–a slice of life from your past… I just finished reading The Book Whisperer and it sounds like Ms Jensen could have written it as she realized that the stories and the characters in them had to grip kids and hold onto them in a serious, real way!

    (Confession: Sometimes I choose short kidlit books to read after a few long, serious, adult ones–middle grade fiction is the best for this!)

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  4. I am with you on the kidlit – especially middle grade fiction. If I’m being honest I think I would read it 90% of the time. Love it. Probably also why I love to write for those age groups! Thanks for your comment.

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