Inside the brain of the reader, a transformation takes place. Words may become pictures to enjoy, or mysteries to be solved, or conversations to engage in. Sometimes readers surrender to a text and sometimes they scrap with it. Reading is woven into the rich fabric of experience, and it cannot be separated from speech, pleasure, challenge, play, and curiosity. As much as it is an activity, reading is a habit of mind.
It is not an assignment. I require nothing. No chide or nudge prompts him. I do not even issue an invitation.
“Hey, Mom. Look at this.” He plops down on the red sofa and I scoot over to make room. Not too much room, though. I wrap my arm around his belly as he flips open his latest library book. Out loud, he reads.
“What’s the main ingredient in puppy biscuits?”
I shrug. “Bacon?”
He looks up at me through his wild hair and grins. “Collie-flour!”
We both crack up and fall into each other. He turns to the next page. “Which vegetables do little dogs like best?”
“I dunno.” I screw my face up. “Carrots?”
“Pup-peas!” He hollers.
We groan and moan and giggle through the rest of the book. My boy’s voice is low waves rolling the jokes up to where they crash on the punch line’s bright shore.
Here is register. Inflection. Vocabulary. Comic timing. This is no longer the dog paddle. It’s freestyle in open water.
He rides the current. Without even taking a breath, he plunges through words that have never shown up on a spelling list. Ingredient. Biscuit. Vegetable. We splash over and under every page together. Flitting through the sea of high-frequency wheres and yous are these surprises, these oddities. Rafting. Sunbathing. Hunting. He does not slow. Happened. Bloodhound. Goldfish. Tough.
He is doing this. My boy is reading.
This is not homework. It is not an assignment. He is choosing