My affinity for reading began with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It was my senior year of high school, and I hated assigned reading. I disliked being forced to read. As a kid, I read Goosebumps. My favorite is One Day at Horrorland, but any reading we were tasked I found to be the dullest. What I did not comprehend at the time was that the simplicity of Goosebumps was what I enjoyed. The lack of challenge allowed me to stream through the young adult collection. Deep down, I knew that I had to be challenged, but the push was not going to come from me.
Colleen, my senior English teacher, assigned two books, we chose between Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, both enticed me. Dracula I knew from pop culture, vampires, bloodsuckers, and all that crept underneath the moonlight seemed frightful to me, and I had no idea that all that derived from fiction. On the other hand, Crime and Punishment’s title seemed self-explanatory, so I went with Dracula. My first attempt at reading was awful. I kept getting distracted at home. To be honest, I did not comprehend the vocabulary, and I found it boring—I put the book down, and that was it.
Eventually, my lack of reading discipline showed. Colleen was quizzing us every Friday, my grades began to slip, and she called me one day during lunch to discuss my faulty reading attitude. At first, I was genuinely nervous. She asked me if I’d been reading. I said yes, and she asked me if I was sure, I said yes again. She sighed and asked, “Do you find this challenging?” I didn’t want to be embarrassed, so I said no. I did not want my teacher to know that I wasn’t understanding the assigned reading much less for her to think I was dumb. What Colleen did next, I will never forget and will forever thank her. Colleen asked me if I tried reading aloud. I never thought of that. I never had anyone to read to me as a kid. All the reading I did was in class or to myself. She began reading the first page aloud, I followed with my copy, and my learning experience changed. Colleen recommended I check out an audiobook. I could follow along with the reader as I read the book to myself.
As soon as I got home, I asked my parents to take me to the library. I rushed to Malcolm X, my local library in Southeast San Diego, and asked the available librarian if they had the audiobook of Dracula. They did not, but they would order it from another branch. I received it a week later. I transformed my room into a reading room. My mom had this fuschia colored chair. I paired it with my dad’s Sony home stereo system. My reading became a cinematical experience. I began reading like a complete pro. Not only was I comprehending the material, but I was also having fun! Unbeknownst to me, I was learning to critically think, evaluate, and endure in a vocabulary building activity. My reading improved, and Colleen was proud of me. I was proud of myself too.
I became excited to read. I would even raise my hand during class. I was an all-star reader. Colleen helped me discover new talent, and I will forever be thankful to her, and the time she dedicated to me. Colleen helped me become a responsible reader. In retrospect, it makes sense, I went off to college and studied creative writing. Here, you are reading something I wrote. Seventeen-year-old me would have never believed it. My freshman teacher would say, “Reading is the act of taking in information and making sense of it.” I’m glad I learned how to read.
By Derrek G
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