Reading a book full of facts like Thea Bowman: A Story of Triumph can be challenging. 

During middle school, some big books took me months or even years to finish. At age 12, I tried to read thick novels like The Brothers Karamazov, full of adults who stood around and talked a lot. 

I had asthma in the summer that kept me indoors, so I had many hours to read my father’s novels, nonfiction, and historical fiction paperbacks. There were titles by Michener, Dostoyevsky, Solzhenitsyn, Tolstoy, and Beal. 

When I ran into big words, I usually skipped over them and kept going. I probably should have looked up more words in a dictionary. Many times, even if I did look up a definition, I had to go back a few pages and figure out what had happened. 

When I got to the last sentence, the adventure of the big book was over; sometimes I was happy and sometimes I was sad to have it end.

Little did I know, I was gaining reading literacy! 

Many years later, I became fascinated with literacy while working as a K-12 project leader in an educational publishing corporation. It was a new world of measurement and assessment. I recall thinking, “Apparently, reading levels are important!”

Similarly, Thea Bowman: A Story of Triumph might seem like a “big book” to some students. That is, the reading Lexile range for grades 6–12 of this book might prove to be a challenge. 

If that happens, I can offer my own reading experience as advice: it is OK to stop, find a word’s definition, and go back to figure out how or why something happened. The reader always triumphs by reading all the way to the end.

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