The other night, I experienced one of those rare highs in a mother’s life, the sort that makes you think maybe you actually are doing something right after all. It was about 10:30 p.m. I’d tucked in my 10-year-old an hour earlier, and he usually conks out immediately. So when I heard a small voice coming from behind his bedroom door, I thought: Oh no. Bad dream. Diversion from my own bed calling me.
I opened my son’s bedroom door tentatively. He looked at me sheepishly, with wide-open eyes, and said: “I finished the book.” He’d completed, on his own after lights out, Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. It could have been any book and I would have had the same reaction. I smiled stupidly, ruffled his messy hair, and told him to get to bed.
I was ecstatic. My son is what you’d call a “reluctant reader.” He loves listening to me, or anyone else for that matter, read a good book out loud. But ask him to sit down, alone, and read for 30 minutes, and you’d think he’d been asked to jump barefoot on a bed of nails. I’ve wrestled with this situation ever since he was in first grade, and his teacher called me a month into the school year to inform me that she would only read the math problems that she’d concocted for a few more weeks, and then he was on his own.