When I was a kid, I used to get in trouble for reading too much. It’s true. I’d lug books everywhere I went, including to the dinner table. In between bites of chicken enchiladas or a forkful of spaghetti, I’d read. I’d read right up until my mom would call out my full name: “Angela C. Cervantes! Put the book away now and eat!” As my siblings giggled, I’d stash the book away before my mom could warn me a second time. A second warning was really a final warning. There would be no third warning.
Only once did I ignore that first warning. I was reading E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web at the dinner table, and I thought I had time to read just a little bit more before my mom called my name a second time. It didn’t help that my mom had served pork chops for dinner, and I wasn’t planning on touching it—in honor of Wilbur, of course. With the second warning, the book was snatched out of my hands. I didn’t get the book back for a full two days. Cruel world!
Book-lovers are my kind of people
During author visits to elementary schools, I always share with students about how I used to get into trouble for reading too much. The response is always the same: a lot of understanding smiles and knowing nods from the students and teachers.
“How many of you have ever been in trouble for reading too much?” I ask the students.
Suddenly, hundreds of hands fly up, eagerly wanting to tell me about the time a favorite book got them into trouble. Once, a student said he was busted reading Captain Underpants at church instead of listening to the sermon. Another time, a kid said she stayed up reading my book Lety Out Loud all night under her covers while the rest of her family slept. She woke up dead tired the next day. I asked her if it was worth it.
“Yes!” she howled.
Then there was the student who admitted to me and his entire fifth grade class that he pretended to be sick from school one day so that he could finish Holes by Louis Sachar. I glanced over at his teacher and she was smiling with a glimmer of pride in her eyes.
After listening to kid’s stories about the level of sneakiness they’ll go to keep reading, I proudly tell them, “You’re my people.” It’s no joke. Readers are exactly the kind of troublemakers who will always be my people.
Ultimately, reading made me a writer. And when I sit down to write, I write with the hope that the story I’m drafting will be SO GOOD that a third grader isn’t going to be able to put it down at the dinner table. I hope that a fourth grader is going to lug my book to their place of worship and get so busted for it. And somewhere out there, way past bedtime, I hope that a fifth grader is going to sneak my book under the covers and read until they’ve finished the last line.
Is it awful that I wish to create book-loving troublemakers?
Don’t answer that.
The fact is, reading is good trouble. It’s the kind of trouble we should all be getting into. You can tell your parents and teachers I said that.
Helpful Links To Keep You Reading
- See my partial list of diverse stories for children and adults
- Find the next great book for your child at Scholastic
- Learn more about my books
[This article was updated from a published version by Angela Cervantes for Scholastic’s 100 Year Anniversary Anthology: 100 Reasons to Love Reading]