Marco* was a challenging 6th grader with a chip on his shoulder. He was resentful and rude with most teachers and students. When I read aloud and shared book suggestions, he tried hard not to care. When it was Marco’s turn to conference, he felt empowered stating “I hate reading.” I replied confidently that he just hasn’t found the right book yet. No power struggle or blaming? Marco was confused.
The nurturing, motherly thing that reading with children can be hurt Marco: his mother was in Honduras. Marco’s father worked very long hours, always promising to bring his family together with the next paycheck. Dealing with the setback of having to learn to read all over again on top of everything else he was dealing with– it was easier to just not read.
Eventually, his friend’s enthusiasm chipped away at him. They roped him into a literary circle where he found his favorite series: Dragon Ball Z. He toned down his earlier defiance with “I hate reading –except comics, I like comics.” Soon this act wore thin too. He read enthusiastically and shared books with his friends. The last week of school, Marco embraced his reading identity and admitted what I already knew: “I love reading.” With this statement, he accepted a lot more than just books. Grumpy, aloof, or hostile feels easier at first. Yet, given time, books help us accept what is good and joyful, even as we struggle with what is unfair and painful.
*I changed Marco’s name for his privacy. However, Dragon Ball Z is a real manga series that my kids are really addicted to.