John Temple, Duke ’13, member of Duke Community Leadership Project Team
One day in kindergarten, I was assigned a penguin book to read at home with my parents. I was not at all interested in penguins and I was certainly not interested in reading. Nevertheless, my mom saw the book in my backpack and insisted that I read it to her. I fought and refused yet eventually I gave in. I attempted to read this “upper level” book but struggled significantly. So, my mom put a note in my bag telling my teacher that I needed extra time reading in class because of my difficulty. What did I do? I threw the note away. My teacher eventually found out and put me through painful hours of additional reading, but I tried as hard as I could to avoid the penguins.
Three years later I found my literary passion: murder mystery novels. One day in third grade, I picked up “The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore” by Joan Lowery Nixon and I didn’t put it down until I finished it. I found out that Nixon had written a plethora of books of the same genre so I went to the library to seek them out. I devoured one after another. When I had read the dozen that were at the local library and wasn’t satisfied, I went to Barnes & Nobles with my parents to find more. I just couldn’t get enough. We even ordered books from the Internet that weren’t on the shelves until I had read everything from “The Séance” to “The Name of the Game Was Murder.” In the end, I eventually read all 102 books published by Joan Lowery Nixon and still to this day have most of them sitting on my bookshelf.
Not everyone has the same access to books as I had when I was growing up. Reading isn’t everyone’s first hobby, whether because they haven’t found the right book or because they haven’t found books at all. I believe that there is a book that makes reading click for every child. Whether it is “Where the Wild Things Are” or “Curious George” or one of Joan Lowery Nixon’s novels, the books are out there. It has been a pleasure working with Book Harvest as it connects children with the books that will hopefully lead them toward a life of enjoyable reading.