I was a sneaky kid.
In school, we were given books to read and asked to write a report at the end to share what we'd learned from the experiences of the characters and the places the book had allowed us to travel.
But I hated to read and no one was going to make me.
To me, reading was a chore. I felt pressured to read and couldn't see the joy in it.
Instead of relaxing into a good book, as I do today, I had an elaborate system that allowed me to appear as if I had done the assignment. When the book report was due, I read the back cover, the jacket sleeves and skimmed the first and last chapters.
Sometimes, to make my reports more believable, I would open the book and pull out a character name or quote from somewhere in the middle.
I got caught.
During an oral exam a teacher began to suspect the truth. She named a character from the book and asked me how I felt about that person.
I was confident as I expounded on the character and their place in the story. The teacher folded her arms and smirked. She told me that no such character existed. She made the character up to test her suspicion.
Then she leaned forward and told me that, while I was cheating to pass her class, I was actually cheating myself from the incredible journey that is reading.
I didn't fully understand until years later when I met a girl who was an avid reader. She was obviously smarter than me and had a knowledge of the world she had gained through books.
I married her at age 19 and started to follow her lead. That's when I started discovering books I should have read in school -- "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," "War of the Worlds" and "Treasure Island," which is now one of my favorite books.
These days, I can't wait to finish one book so I can start another.
Reading has given me a more open mind and made me a better communicator. But today, as I remember myself faking my way through book reports, I wonder how many children out there are just like I was. And new technology may not be helping children. By relying on the Internet for information, they are missing the benefits that come from an old-fashioned, hold-in-your-hand, page turner.
I encourage parents to read to their children and get them involved in programs like next week's Read Across America: Cat in the Hat Family Reading Night in celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday on March 2 at the Payson Public Library. I also encourage adults to support the efforts of our local library by attending this weekend's Chef's Extravaganza.
There are still some tickets left. The library fund-raiser will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Tonto Apache Community Center southeast of the Mazatzal Casino.
Tickets are $30 and are available at the door, or in advance at the Payson Public Library or at the Payson Roundup office. All proceeds will benefit library projects.