At some point in life, pretty much every kid has to write a book report—those dreaded essays that prove we read a book, in which we need to recap the plot, offer character descriptions and, worst of all, provide some sort of critical analysis. My first book report was in the second grade, and it proved to be something of a defining moment in my life. While all the other kids were doing reports on what was considered standard reading material in second grade—books that were handed to them by our teacher or the school librarian—I chose my own path. I did a book report on a comic book version of Beneath the Planet of the Apes. This was not just any comic book, but Power Records Book-and-record adaptation. Essentially, these were comic books that came with a 7-inch vinyl recording of the book, read by a cast of actors. Power Records had a whole series of these, including adventures of Batman, Captain America, Fantastic Four, and four of the Planet of the Apes movies. Reading along with these records was crucial in my learning how to read, and so when it came time for my first book report, I went with Beneath the Planet of the Apes.
My second grade teacher was not impressed. If memory serves me correctly, I got a ‘F’ on the book report, which prompted my mother to fly into a rage—not at me, but at my teacher. A phone call was made, a conference was set up, and my mom went to war with my second grade teacher over my literacy. My teacher argued that reading a comic book was not the same as reading a book, because there were too many pictures and…well…it was a comic book. My mom, in her usual passionate way, pointed out that all the other kids were turning in book reports of books that also had pictures, and that my Beneath the Planet of the Apes comic had more pages and more words than many of the books that had been suggested for my grade level. She even pointed out that the comic itself had bigger words and more complex story than many of the other books my classmates were reading. Finally, my mom said, “My kid loves to read comic books, which have words, plots, and characters. And you’re telling me and him that that doesn’t count as reading?” After that, no teacher ever gave me trouble for doing book reports on comic books, though by the time I was in fourth grade, I was reading at a high school level and doing book reports on those books.
The point of this story is that my mom always paid attention to what I was reading, and encouraged me too read. I found material that interested me, and went after it. And to her credit, she always made sure there was something for me to read. Wherever we went, she made sure I had a book or a comic book with me, and that it was something I wanted to read. I wish more parents did this, rather than shoving some sort of electronic device into the hands of their children—not that there is anything wrong with all of these high tech gadgets. I tend to carry my iPad with me most places. Of course, it is filled with books and comics, so that there is always something for me to read.