It was a simple and logical request, but it has led to some navel-gazing on my part. Prior to my being a mystery reader for Anna’s third grade class, I answered some standard questions so that the teacher could have the students guess who the mystery reader might be. One of the questions was, “What was your favorite book in third grade?” Well, I agonized over that question because SO MANY! HOW WILL I EVER CHOOSE? And I finally narrowed it down to The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I settled on The Phantom Tollbooth because: a. weird and b. slightly uncommon. So I thought maybe it should receive some love. And I went about my business.
After I got home from performing my mystery reader duties, I asked Anna if she would read The Phantom Tollbooth. I heard the eagerness in my voice and was a little puzzled. Anna is a voracious reader, and she is always carting at least three or four books around in her backpack. If we are going on an errand, she is typically carrying a book with her. Just in case. Even if that errand is to the store to grab an item or two and come directly home. She reads a lot, and it would be a little surprising if she didn’t like a book like The Phantom Tollbooth. So, it was interesting to hear the barely-controlled anxiousness in my voice as I asked her to read what was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. But, it was worse when, a couple of days later, I asked her what she thought of the book. She thought it was ok. She saw the look on my face when she gave me that response, and she upgraded it to good. It was clear that she enjoyed reading it, but it was also clear that she didn’t think the book was anything special. I found myself surprisingly sad that she didn’t feel the same love for the book that I remember feeling.
But, I’m a glutton for punishment, and I’m going to forge ahead with A Wrinkle in Time. This time, I’m going to stack the deck a bit and read it to her. I am going to have to practice reading it without the underlying note of pleading in my voice, because I don’t think the book will be quite as impactful that way. Wish me luck.