Michelle F. Gentry
Western Governors University
The Greatest Gift
The sky was orange with streaks of gray and purple as early afternoon descended into evening. Overflowing with anticipation, I waited as patiently as my four year old body would allow. The distant crunch of wheels on gravel made my heart leap for joy. My mom was finally here to save me from the dank, gloomy babysitter's house. We would go home, eat dinner, she would clean the kitchen and I would get ready for bed. How I loved bedtime! Not because I enjoyed sleeping, but because it meant it was time to read.
My mother had a contagious passion for literature of every genre. She would read to me with such enthusiasm, regardless of how exhausted she felt. The characters would always have different voices and the light in her eyes made me feel like I was right there in the middle of the action. It was a priceless escape from reality. I could imagine I was anyone, anywhere, and it prevented me from feeling alone. It also created an insatiable desire to learn to read for myself, more than anything. I started watching the words as she would read them. Eventually, I learned how and it was the single, most lucrative, gift I could have ever received. Not just the ability to read, but the love of literacy. When I discovered that I was pregnant, I wanted to give my son, Alex, the same gift. I began reading to my bulging stomach. Anything I could find was fair game. I read him horror novels, the newspaper, poetry, and so much more. I was the parent who gave my child a book for entertainment while I was attending to my mundane chores, rather than sitting him in front of the mindless television. Before long, he was mimicking sounds and pointing at pictures and words with curiosity and merriment. He began speaking earlier than the average child and could explain how he was feeling or what he wanted. This cut down on the frustration many parents experience due to a lack of communication. At the ripe age of three years old, Alex read me his first book. The pride and intense happiness seeped through my skin, gleaming for the world to see. By five years old, he was reading chapter books (with a little help) and having discussions with me about what was happening in each chapter. He was comprehending what he was reading. It was absolutely amazing. He is now in the first grade and hasn't had a report card that reflects his correct reading level because the teachers are only allowed to grade the children up to a certain maximum per grade. I knew my son was exceptional and I took my fair share of credit for his achievements. It was my step son, Kelan, who brought me back to reality. Just seven months ago, my husband and I obtained full custody of Kelan. His life, up to that point, had been quite the opposite of my son, an only child who never wanted for anything. Kelan was the classically ignored, middle child of five. When he came to live with us, he was having a hard time recognizing the…