When the blogging group I work with on our Summer Book Study offered up the list of chapters to write up and I saw one titled ‘A Hyper Kid’s Road to Reading’ it was clear – I was meant to author this final chapter synopsis.
If you think, much as I did, this chapter would offer generic strategies for helping hyperactive children to read, you’d be wrong… kind of. At it’s core, this final chapter is the story of how one little boy overcame his hyperactivity by learning to love reading. That boy is Jim Trelease. I won’t recount his journey here as I have no desire to deliver a book report. If you have the book and read the chapter, you already know how little Jim learned to love reading (with much help from his parents, teachers, and others along the way). Instead, I’ll share something else, my own journey towards becoming a reader.
As a child, I was the opposite of Jim Trelease. I was rather calm. I doubt either my mother or any of my teachers would ever have complained about my behavior (relatively speaking). I was, at my core, ‘a good boy’ who did what he was told, sat still, and, yes, loved school.
Something happened on my way to manhood that reversed my course and I am now, as an adult, severely hyperactive. You might even say (well my doctor does) I have was is called ‘Adult A.D.D.’. Ugh, what a horrible label. Except it’s not.
As a child, I remember spending summers with my grandparents. Every night, before bed, my grandmother would read to me. Now my grandmother was one of the most eccentric ladies you’d ever meet. With only a high-school diploma, she educated herself in the ways of the world and became a highly respected art dealer. She learned to read and write Japanese. Needless to say, she was not going to read a children’s book to me.
Each night, she read me, Moby Dick. Yes, Moby Dick. I was probably six or seven-years-old, and while much of it was beyond my grasp, she read it anyway – always stopping to explain vocabulary or answer my questions. The narrative, the action had me hooked. When we finished Moby Dick, she began 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Again, not a book meant for such a young child, but the adventure and excitement enthralled me. I often begged her to keep reading and remember having difficulty falling asleep after being such enthralling stories.
So what happened to me? How did I morph from a calm little ‘good boy’ to the frantic, chaotic, scatter-brained, never-can-sit-still, man I am today? I’m not sure. My doctor thinks it has something to do with ‘brain chemistry’ and while I do not medicate myself, I have found ways to deal with it. Exercise is key. Writing is another outlet (for the record, I write in spurts, never for more than fifteen minutes at a time). Lastly, reading has always calmed me. It’s probably the activity that centers my body and calms my energy the most.
What my grandmother taught me, all those years ago, was to make a connection. Sit down with a child (or group of children), open a book, and make one.