Reading. It’s always been my favorite thing in the world. In elementary school, I learned to read using the Dick & Jane books. When we finished that program, we were allowed to move up to the SRA (Science Research Associates) reading system, which treated reading as a reward. I can still recall the stillness of the sun-splashed classroom as we all hurried to finish our assignments so that we could choose a reading card from the color-coded SRA box. It was a race to get to the gold level cards. Now, I can’t even remember if I made it; but I certainly remember the feel and the smell of those heavily laminated reading cards. I was in my element.
On my own, I read books like Silver Chief, Dog of the North, and The Black Stallion. Little Women made a huge impact on me, too. But I’ll never forget the weekend I stayed tucked up in my cozy attic bedroom reading the biography of Amelia Earhart. It was riveting. My tiny little room under the eaves was transformed into a cloud-shrouded cockpit barely big enough for Amelia and her navigator. I think it must have been the first time I’d read a biography just for fun.
As a teen, I gravitated toward spooky tales by Poe and Alfred Hitchcock. Then came thrillers such as Jaws, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, Harvest Home, and The Exorcist (scared the willies out of me, every one of them).
When I was given Nightshift, Stephen King’s first collection of short stories, I felt as if I had come home from being away.
I taught my daughter to read by reading to her every night. Her favorites were Little Golden Books. All of them. Now, she writes a very popular historical romance series (Sara Barnard) as well as children’s tales for her own little ones.
As a teacher, I built my 5th/6th grade classroom library with everything from Dr. Seuss to C.S. Lewis. But I think the novels Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, and The Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson, always got the best results. I recall one squeamish young lady asking me, in all seriousness, if we could change our reading time to after lunch—we were reading Hatchet—because some of the grosser scenes were stealing her appetite. Mind you, she didn’t want to stop reading, just not right before lunch.
And when we read The Bridge to Terabithia, even the most reluctant readers were captivated. I love reading with children. That’s why I wrote the Phantom Series. It isn’t for the faint of heart though. Just like my student wanting to change the reading period to after lunch all those years ago, I recently heard from one young reader who said she loved the Phantom Books, but she couldn’t read them after eight o’ clock, they were too scary.
I think that’s one of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received.
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