Growing a Reader
by Jennifer Maschari
I’ve been a reader even longer than I can remember. I have photographs of baby me holding books. Sometimes upside down, sometimes right side up. I may not have been able to unlock the words inside the pages but books were always nearby, just an arm’s length away. I read an article recently that babies learn by observation. They watch the world around them and then mimic the actions they see. It’s how they learn to do things, like holding a spoon, for example. It’s no wonder that I was holding books in those early photos; I was simply mimicking what I observed. I grew up in a house of readers.
Sam I Am and his Green Eggs and Ham are my first memory of actually reading a book on my own. I don’t know if it was a moment of truly knowing how to read or simply having had memorized the words on the page because I had heard them so many times read aloud. But with every page turn and new illustration, the story revealed itself to me. The random letters came together to make meaning. I had unlocked the secrets and stories held in those pages.
My mom kept stacks of her original Nancy Drew hardcovers from her childhood on the upper shelf of my bedroom closet. I loved joining in the adventures of Nancy, George and Bess – finding the secret of the old clock or the password to Larkspur Lane. These mysteries led to me to other series: Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins. Every one of these books was like visiting old friends. I even tried to make my own babysitters club! Though it was less successful than Kristy’s Great Idea, it showed me how books inspire and can come alive.
Even though books were my constant companions, authors still felt like these far away celebrities. I discovered a book called Tomorrow When the War Began by Australian author John Marsden. Rooted by my love of books like Hatchet and Robinson Crusoe, I was so taken by this story of grit, survival and friendship. I wrote John Marsden a letter. Imagine my surprise when, many months later, I received a multi-stamped envelope in the mail. It was a hand-written letter back, sharing his appreciation for his fan oceans away in America. Suddenly, there was a real person behind the book. Though I didn’t recognize it at the time, maybe this was the first seed planted that I could be an author one day, too.
There are so many books that have shaped the person I am. Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. The Giver by Lois Lowry. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I still find books to be such friends. In the very best ones, we see pieces of ourselves. I am so lucky that I got to share my love of books and reading with growing readers for many years as teacher and now get to share my own stories as an author.
About the Author
Jennifer Maschari is a former classroom teacher who writes books for young readers. Her first middle grade novel, The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, comes out February 23, 2016. She has two more stand-alone books coming out in 2017 and 2018 from Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. Jennifer lives in Ohio with her husband and her two stinky (yet noble) English bulldogs, Oliver and Hank.
About The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price
A heartfelt, beautifully written novel of love, loss, and math—perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead and Sharon M. Draper.
Ever since twelve-year-old Charlie Price's mom died, he feels like his world has been split into two parts. Before included stargazing and Mathletes and Saturday scavenger hunts with his family. After means a dad who's completely checked out, comically bad dinners, and grief group that's anything but helpful. It seems like losing Mom meant losing everything else he loved, too.
Just when Charlie thinks things can't get any worse, his sister, Imogen, starts acting erratically—missing school and making up lies about their mother. But everything changes when one day he follows her down a secret passageway in the middle of her bedroom and sees for himself.
Imogen has found a parallel world where Mom is alive!
There's hot cocoa and Scrabble and scavenger hunts again and everything is perfect . . . at first. But something doesn't feel right. Whenever Charlie returns to the real world, things are different, and not in a good way. And Imogen wants to spend more and more time on the other side. It's almost as if she wants to leave the real world for good. If Charlie doesn't uncover the truth, he could lose himself, the true memory of their mother, and Imogen . . . forever.
Learn more about the Growing A Reader series here!