Memories of a Sixth Grade "Readathon"

April 26, 2008 at 8:56 pm (General) (, )

In sixth grade when our teacher announced that we’d be having a “readathon”, I was so excited. We were told that we could bring snacks, pillows and blankets (if we wanted to), and, of course, we could bring any books that we wanted to read.

Although I did bring a snack, I didn’t care so much about eating it. I was just excited to have a whole day to read. This was probably the first time in my life that nobody said “Okay, you’ve read enough. Go do something else,” after several hours of reading. We were even allowed to read through recess. (This was a constant argument between the “playground duties” and myself – if I was outside, it should have been enough. I felt I should have been allowed to read. They thought differently. Hence, no reading during recess.) I brought two books to read. The first book I don’t remember – it was probably whatever book I’d checked out from the library recently. This doesn’t mean it was a bad book, just that I don’t particularly remember what that book was.

I do remember the second book, though: Family Album by Danielle Steel. My mother had given me the book for Christmas. Remember that at this point, I was eleven years old, maybe twelve. I think she either took the recommendation of somebody else or just picked it up off the shelves and only read a page or two – if that. Otherwise, what was she thinking?

This book was probably a bit too mature for most sixth graders (or at least, their parents would have thought so – sixth graders when I was a sixth grader were much more “aware” of certain things than sixth graders were when my mother was a sixth grader). In this book, among many other things, a young girl runs off, joins a commune, participates in an orgy (several, actually), spends a lot of time high on drugs, and ends up pregnant. She later ends up with her best friend’s father – while she is still in high school. Gay sex is described – not in extremely graphic details, but had my mother known, that right there would have prevented her from giving me the book. One of the girls in the family is a complete slut and dresses like one. Really… what was she thinking?

Anyway, when I started reading that day, I didn’t know much of what the book was about. My teacher wasn’t thrilled, to say the least. We had a minor argument that ended in “Next time, bring something more age appropriate.” The problem was that I had already read pretty much everything that was “age appropriate” in the school library – and she knew it – so she let me keep reading. Since we were scattered about the library, wherever we wanted, I chose a smallish spot in a little nook near the checkout desk. It kept me apart from most of the other kids – and shielded me from any noise they made. It was just me, my book, and a decent amount of time to read. I read until the end of the day and nearly missed my bus – my teacher had to come find me because I was so engrossed in my story that I hadn’t noticed everyone else had left.

A few weeks later, my mother confiscated the book. “This book is too old for you. You can have it back in a few years.” I stared at her a bit dumbfounded – didn’t she remember that this was the book she’d given me just a couple of months prior? Of course, even if I had mentioned that, my mother probably wouldn’t have remembered or believed me. And, if she would have believed me, she wouldn’t have let on. I think she probably knew, but I can’t confirm that. Why did she suddenly change her mind about the book? Had she just noticed what was in it? If not, why did she give it to me in the first place – and then change her mind? I didn’t know then. And I still don’t know.

But every time I come across that book, I’m reminded of that delightful day in sixth grade when I was given a whole day just to read.



  1. John Mutford said,

    I first read Stephen King in grade seven, but Danielle Steele in grade six tops that.

  2. Megan said,

    Oh wow, this reminds me of my elementary school days. They used to hold these things called Prime Time, I think, where they would have any kids that wanted to come back to school at night with our books and our sleeping bags and just sit around in the auditorium/cafeteria and read for a few hours – snacks provided! I loved that stuff. I wish more people now would say to me, “Just come to this designated place and sit around and read for a few hours in relative quiet and we’ll give you food” and have that be viewed as a major accomplishment! LOL!

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