It’s a warm August afternoon and my mom has taken us out to go swimming. I say “warm," but really it’s probably only in the low eighties. In the Pacific Northwest summer days rarely get hotter than that. Most people don’t even have air conditioning.
I spread my towel out in a spot of sunlight and tiptoe into the pool. To my warm dry skin, the water feels like ice. My breath catches as the ripples lap over my knees. I wade deeper, clinging to the edge of the pool for support. The rest of my family is laughing and splashing already. I look up to see my brother jump into the deep end. The wave from his impact crashes over me. For one horrible instant, it feels like someone poured a bucket of ice over my head. I gasp and sputter, wiping the water out of my eyes.
Then it starts to feel comfortable. The water that had seemed like ice, now feels pleasant and cool. I laugh and splash my siblings, having so much fun I don’t want to leave when my mother calls us to go home.
When it's time to leave, I climb up the steps out of the pool. A breeze blows against my damp skin and feels like ice. I hug myself and start to shiver, hurrying to grab my towel. My lips turn blue. The air that used to feel warm is now unbearably cold. And the water that used to feel freezing seems like a cozy sanctuary.
I experienced this same strange phenomenon with reading. When I was just starting to learn to read, I could never get into a story by reading it to myself. But if someone read a book to me, I loved it. It seemed like a movie was playing in my head. I could see the characters and their world. I could hear their voices in my mind.
As I grew more proficient at reading, I discovered that I could get the same enjoyment reading on my own, often late at night, long after I was supposed to be asleep. And when someone tried to read a story out loud I would get distracted by them tripping over their words, or not knowing how to pronounce something, or (worst of all!) when they put the book down and didn't finish the story.
In the same way pool water becomes comfortable and eventually feels warmer than the outside air, reading becomes comfortable and better than listening to someone reading out loud.
It is this change, the acclimatization to reading, that is so important to children. Once reading feels comfortable, like swimming in warm water or slipping into their comfiest pajamas, children can devour books with gusto. That's when the magic happens!