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  • Otieno Okatch

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“My new house looked like a mansion compared to our old house. The whole house was covered in darkness, as if it were hiding in the shadows of the gnarled old trees that bent over it.” – Welcome to Dead House. Even though I’ve read this book a couple of times, I still feel my skin run cold as I visualize this setting. I imagine myself being in Amanda’s situation facing her new dark reality with her little brother. When I read a Goosebumps book, I lose myself in R.L. Stine’s reality which overflows with suspense, terror and mystery.



My obsession for dark fiction novels began when I was a young boy. My mom would read a few pages from a Goosebumps book before I went to sleep. Ironically, the horror stories didn’t scare me, they helped me relax; I also loved spending time with my mom. Every night after dinner my mom would say: “Brush your teeth and put on your pjs, Jose. We’re going to read a couple of pages from Night of the Living Dummy.” My mom even used to change her voice according to the scene, I loved it! When I got a little older I started collecting Goosebumps books. I picked up all the leaves from our neighbor’s houses and cleaned their windows for some money so I can buy a new book. I now have over 20 books from R.L. Stein and I’m still on the hunt for more!


Reading independently never came easy to me like the other kids in school. I struggled to pronounce large words and couldn’t stay focused for long periods of time. “I hate this book, I’m done! It’s too hard, mom!” There were times where I even considered throwing my collection of books away. But with a soft soothing voice my mom told me: “Its ok sweetie, you’ll learn. I promise!” She looked at me with eyes of tenderness as she kissed me goodnight. She gave me the confidence I desperately needed to keep learning how to read. Every night I grabbed my favorite Goosebumps book and read to my mom. Over time, reading became much easier for me.


As an adult, my mother doesn’t read to me anymore, but its ok. Every night before bed I carry on our tradition and read a few pages from my favorite Goosebumps book. I sometimes call my mom and read to her over the phone; I even make all the sound effects like she did for me. During the peak of COVID, I used reading as my main source of joy and comfort. My PALS staff member also supported me by calling me every day so I can read to him. We also made plans for when we return back to in person services for me to read to the entire day program!

I can’t wait for COVID-19 to be over so I can share my books with my best friends; I’m even helping them to improve their reading skills too!







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