Monday, October 18, 2010

The Cusp of a Miracle

My son, Owen, is right on the cusp of learning how to read. He knows all of his letter sounds, and is starting to blend together sounds and context clues. As I watch him, piecing together language like a weaver selects her fibers, it's hard for me to contain my excitement.

I know what it all means. I know that his world is about to become much grander. Soon, very soon, he will walk into the pages of a book. If he is lucky, and it is the right book, he will walk out changed.

It's a miracle.

I just finished Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. My friend had recommend the book, saying that when she read the final lines, she sat there, feeling such gratitude for this author, such incredible thankfulness that he brought this world to her fingertips.

I immediately put the book on hold at the library. And indeed, when I read it, the book changed me. It made me want to be a better person. It want to smell my sons' hair, and take walks with my husband.

After reading this book, I put the reusable bags by my front seat, so I would use them when I shopped---no more excuses! I bought a thermos so I would stop wasting so many paper cups at Starbucks. I ate carrots at lunch instead of leftover Mac and Cheese.

Dudes--this book made me consider birdwatching.

If that is not a miracle, I don't know what is.

I dream of reading books with my boys someday. They are different than the books I imagined reading with my fictional daughters. I don't expect my sons to get all that excited about Anne of Green Gables.

But I do expect that they will be moved by the gorgeous fatherhood of Atticus Finch. I know they will grow up with Harry Potter. I hope they also love The Westing Game, and laugh with the Wimpy Kid.

I'll even tolerate Tolkien if gets them to worship the holy alchemy of paper and thought.

I hope that someday, when they are mired in adolescence, and I am hopelessly uncool, that we can still talk about books. I hope that the words of authors can still bridge those gaps, and momentarily, at least, make us both human.

We aren't there yet, but we will be soon. Today, I sat with my son and turned the pages, encouraging him to sight-read a few words from one of those "my first" books.

As I watched Owen sound out "Ha-p-py" and then cry out, "HAPPY!" joyous in his discovery, I want to yell it right back.

"He is READING! And I. AM. HAPPY!"

After all, how often do you discover the entire world?


Anonymous said...

I was excited when my boys started to read, too. I not so secretly wished that they would have a love of books and reading equal to my own.

I haven't read Freedom yet but am on the list for it at the library. I'm looking forward to it.

PS I can't think of boys' books right now as I'm brain dead. When something comes to me I'll e-mail you.

Erin said...

Books are amazing! I can't wait for my boys to start! I have another couple of years! I just read a book by Jodi Picoult that had my mind realing! Ok so not a literary work but an excellent read!

Muliebrity said...

I feel like a bad mom, because I have no idea how to even begin to teach Logan to read! We read together several times a day, but the kid thinks reading is impossible, so he doesn't even want to try. Yes, he is one of those who doesn't want to try anything that he thinks he won't be good at. Sigh.

Aging Mommy said...

Freedom is next on my reading list - now I can't wait to get to it! I love, love, love books and always have. I can totally appreciate how you feel seeing your son readying himself for the world of books. I am so looking forward to experiencing that transition with my daughter when the time comes too. Lovely post.

michelle said...

I was so stoked for my kids to read but you know what? My boys hate reading! How much does that suck?

I think The Westin Game was the first book Jack ever loved, though. That's a good one.

The Blogging Goddess said...

What a timely post! My son read the whole Green Eggs and Ham to me today for his homework. I was so dang proud of him!!

Michelle Pixie said...

I am not much help with the books department as I have girls but I am sure the library will have some great suggestions for you. My girls love to read and Diva just started reading over the summer and it was so exciting for everyone!

I am off to put Freedom on hold for myself!

Maggie May said...

i CANNOT wait to read Freedom. i'm so excited!!!

Anonymous said...

Awww! Smee is learning to read, too. He read about 12 words last week from his Hooked on Phonics program. Very bittersweet. He's my baby and that just kicks the door on babydom shut with a resounding slam. But it is really awesome. It's so great seeing them grow. But dang it, makes my baby arms ache with the "no more babies" ache.

Amy said...

My 7yo is just beginning to read and he is so excited, too. My 11yo? He hates reading -- but he loves sports, so we got him the Sports Illustrated Kids magazine subscription. A few other books he's actually enjoyed include the NERDS books, Captain Underpants, and amazingly, one or two Hardy Boys.

Thanks for this post. It makes me want to find something to read.

Amy said...

My 7yo is just beginning to read and he is so excited, too. My 11yo? He hates reading -- but he loves sports, so we got him the Sports Illustrated Kids magazine subscription. A few other books he's actually enjoyed include the NERDS books, Captain Underpants, and amazingly, one or two Hardy Boys.

Thanks for this post. It makes me want to find something to read.

Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) said...

My son is just turning 4 so we're quite a ways away from reading. I know my nephew liked all manner of gross-out books when he was learning to read but I'm sure you won't need to seek those out, they'll find those themselves.

Learning to read really is a miracle. And I can't wait for my own kids to achieve it. Lucky for me I also have a daughter and you can bet I'll be introducing her to Anne of Green Gables.

LB said...

Freedom...hmmm. I've not heard of it. If it's that profound, though, I might need to check it out. Of course, now that school is back in my reading time is reduced to ZERO.

My son is just learning to read as well. They make these little paper books at school that he brings home to read. I get so excited when I hear: "The little cat. The little dog. The little hat."

As for what to read in the future? I have no idea! I hope you get some good ideas.

Formerly known as Frau said...

How exciting.....I'm so happy for Owen a whole new world is opening up for him. Great recommend for a to here about life changing ones.

TKW said...

As a fellow book-lover, I share your excitement at Owen's being "almost there." The world of there anything better?

I laughed at "tolerating Tolkien." I share your attitude.

Freedom made you consider bird watching? Wow. Did it make you consider picking up cats and taking them to far away animal shelters, too? ;) I enjoyed the book too.

Ms. Moon said...

My son loved all the fantasy books. Ate them in great big bites. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe- remember that.
I will read that Franzen book. I was thinking yesterday as I was listening to About Grace on tape by Anthony Doerr that if one wants to be a better writer, one should read better books.
If there is magic in this world, it can be found books.

Erin said...

I need to read that book. It sounds inspirational....

My girls, too, are on the verge of reading. We are working hard and I'd love it if they would do it before kindergarten starts next year. I don't want to push too hard or force it. It's exciting to watch. We have a lot of those Level 1 books and I'm hoping it'll just kinda start to happen soon!

clearness said...

Anything by David Adler.....Bones would be a good series to start with.

My daughter likes The Young Cam Jansen books by David Adler.

Unknown Mami said...

I have to go read Freedom now.

Ash said...

This is the first "real" person review for Freedom I've read - I'm adding it to the reading list right now. I don't trust those "professional" reviewers ;-)

Books? The Magic Tree House series, by Mary Pope Osborne, is huge in our home. A cool way to teach the boys a little bit of history mixed in with adventures of a brother and sister.

Encyclopedia Brown is also big, along with Diary of a Wimpy series (Oldest had me preorder the next one for him and has the date marked on his calendar - be still my heart!) and Capt. Underpants.

My husband is not a huge reader. I know! It is my mission to encourage my boys as much as possible. So far, so good. I do have to admit, literacy comes with some negative side effects as well. Such as, being able to read over your shoulder as you blog.

MiMi said...

When the kids read it's AMAZING!!! I love reading.
Also: bird watching...that WOULD be a miracle maker.

Joann Mannix said...

I will never forget the first time I put words together. It is still, to this day, one of the most illuminating moments of my life. I have no idea how I did it, but I taught myself to read at 4. And when I understood what those words were bringing to me, I remember saying to my mom, "There are all these worlds here in books!"

I, too, hope they know Scout and Atticus in all their glory.

And now, I have a novel to upload onto my iPad for a plane ride. I love books that make me want to be better.

Mel said...

How very exciting for reading to be happening! In addition to the Magic Tree House and Encyclopedia Brown, my son loved Frindle, and everything else that author wrote. When he got older, he loved Hatchet and those survival type books, then anything sports related. It was one of my greatest sorrows that when required to read To Kill A Mockingbird in high school, he declared it both stupid and boring. He did not love it like I did, and there are very few grown up books he has loved as much as me, but at least he shares the good young adult reads with me. He is a reluctant and struggling reader thanks to dyslexic issues, but he manages just fine. I wish he felt the magic sometimes though.
Happy reading!

Florida Girl Meets the Midwest said...

I am looking up that book Freedom right now. You have peaked my curiosity.

Minivan Lover said...

Ok I give- I want to read Freedom too now. Yea Owen! P's loves books too. How do you feel about renting O out to read to P so I can do the laundry already.

Grimmgirl said...

My boy will read anything! He enjoys Magic Tree House. We read them together, and then he read them on his own when he could.

Grimmgirl said...

My boy will read anything! He enjoys Magic Tree House. We read them together, and then he read them on his own when he could.

SamiJoe said...

Good question.
I know my daughter is already enjoying listening to Anne of Green Gables.
But my son, simply likes books about trucks, cement trucks, tractors and the like.
In fact, for him right now, we go to an intermediate encyclopedia section for him.

Do Hardy Boys still apply?

StarTraci said...

My heart is swelling! Reading is a miracle. I have never heard it called that before but it is absolutely right on.

I love that Owen is learning to read. Ian is growing in his reading and it is so exciting!

I am now inspired to go get "Freedom". When I will have time to read that tome, I'm not sure but any book that you describe as changing your life, must be worth making the time.

Anonymous said...

This is the BIGGEST reason I love teaching first grade. At my school, many of them are only just now beginning to blend the sounds and put the words together. My struggling readers are the ones I get to help most, and the ones I get to witness these moments with, and even help make the moments happen. It's literally awesome.

Marla said...

How exciting!! I have tons of bookshelves overflowing with books. I read with my kids constantly and they all love to read. Have you read any Shel Silverstein to them? Good stuff!

Thanks for the info on Freedom. :-)

Anonymous said...

This made me teary eyed and hopeful with you. The anticipation is palpable.


I put Freedom on hold at the Libary. I'm 26th in line. I'll let you know how it was when I get around to it in eight months.

only a movie said...

I love it when a book grabs like that. Freedom is loaded onto iPad... just have to clear some time to sink into it.
The boys in my class love the Percy Jackson series. They also enjoy Magic Tree House and anything by William Steig (mostly because I force that on them - he's my fave).

Mrs4444 said...

This post is absolutely beautiful. I love it. Please link it up tomorrow night, will you?

This reminds me of when I read Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls Wilder) to Kyle when he was about five. One night, he had a friend sleepover, and as they prepared for bed, he said, "Eric, you get to hear this really good book my mom is reading. It's about this guy, and he has a gun, and he shoots stuff, and it's really cool." Way too funny.

Captain Underpants is a big hit with my 6th graders...

Mrs4444 said...

Never mind. I'm going to link it up!!

Matty said...

I had the pleasure of watching my three children learn to read. And now I listen to my grandson reading, and it brings back memeories. I can imagine your happiness.

You make me want to read that book. Thanks for the insight.

Karen & Gerard Zemek said...

Reading is a great skill that opens up the whole world to a person. Love that you are looking forward to reading with your boys!

I wish I got into reading for pleasure sooner. Here's my post about it if you get a chance to visit: