When I was in the fifth grade (I’m guessing, but that sounds right to me, around ten or eleven years old), I discovered that my grandmother had a book that I very much wanted to read.
It was GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell.
I’d seen the movie at Grandma’s house. (Funny that I remember specific movies that we watched at her house…and so do my siblings and cousins…and we all remember the same movies…Gone With the Wind, Big Jake, Disney’s Robin Hood, and the Three Amigos are the ones we all remember.) I’d loved the movie and when I saw the book, I wanted to read it.
If you remember from my last (non-picture) post, I was the kid who read EVERYTHING.
Grandma caught me reading it when I was at her house, and told me that I was too young to understand it.
That only made me want to read it more.
For the next year or so, every time I was at Grandma’s house, I made sure that I knew where that book was. Whenever she wasn’t looking, I snuck it out of the shelf and hid in another room to read it. If I spent the night at her house, I hid it upstairs where I could stay up and read after she went to bed.
Oh, I’m sure I wasn’t as crafty as I thought I was when I was a kid. I’m sure she knew I was looking at it. I got caught a few times, and was, again, told that I wouldn’t understand it. I was too young to read it.
About a year or so later, I’d read the whole thing. I loved the book.
When I was sixteen years old, Grandma bought me a lovely, brand-new, hardcover edition of my own for Christmas, with the statement that I’d always wanted to read it so she thought it would be a good gift for me. She was right. I tried very hard to bite my tongue, but the story came out eventually…I told her I’d read the whole thing, but that I would read it again, and would savor my copy because she had gotten it for me.
You know what? She was right.
Re-reading the book at sixteen made a whole lot more sense than it had five years or so earlier.
Did that diminish my ability to read it and enjoy it when I was younger? Nope.
Would I have stuck with it if I’d been allowed to read it on my own? Good question. Honest answer is that I don’t know.
I’ve always been the contrary one. Tell me I can’t read something or learn some new skill or reach a certain goal and be darned if I’m not throwing everything I’ve got toward reaching that goal, or reading that thing, or learning that skill. Her statement that I was too young for that book meant I was going to read it come heck or high water.
Why do I bring this up?
Well, other than a great story about me, my grandma, and a wonderful book, I bring it up to illustrate the utter ineffectiveness of telling a kid what they can and can’t read.
There are some kids out there that won’t read something until you tell them they can’t. Then they will make sure they do.
The writer in me hates the idea of censorship of any kind. The reader in me feels the same way. But the memory of that eleven year old kid I used to be? Well, being told no probably lit a fire under me to do more, to push myself harder, and to push my way through parts I didn’t understand, because I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t understand them.
So you know what? Probably smart to take stock of the kid you’re talking about. There probably wasn’t a better way to motivate me to read that book than telling me I couldn’t. Another kid probably would have put it down and walked away.
And I have to admit to still being stubborn today. But that desire not to give up still burns.
Go ahead. Tell me I can’t do something. I dare you. Not that it’ll work for things like breaking the law, or being unethical. But if I’ve set a goal for myself and you tell me I can’t do it…you’ve pretty much guaranteed that I’m not giving up until I’ve done everything within my power to get there.
Oh, and telling a kid they’re not supposed to watch that movie or play that game or read that book? Pretty much guarantees they’re gonna do it anyway. Only thing forbidding it means…at least for me as a kid…was that I didn’t go talk to anyone about trying to understand the parts I didn’t get. How much more would I have understood if I’d asked about it?
Anyone else have a book like this that they read as a kid when the adults around them said no?