Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How I Became a Reader

Over on the Book View Cafe blog, Sherwood Smith describes her journey as a "passionate reader" (her phrase). She writes how a babysitter brought over a book that ignited that passion:
The story was everything I wanted: kids with no parents, girls getting to adventure as much as boys, no drippy patriotic or moral message in that inimical fifties way of “do what I say, but if you do what I do you’ll be in trouble,” funny stuff as well as action.

I suppose every one of us who loves books has a story. Here are some tidbits from mine. I'd love to hear yours, as well.

I am of an age when kids were expected to learn to read at school, usually in 2nd grade or so. Also, for some reason, I never went to kindergarten (and no one I knew went to preschool, not that my family could have afforded it). I got dumped into first grade with no prior school experience and spent the next couple of years absolutely confused. Reading was opaque to me. I remember struggling with the word "laugh." I just could not translate those letters into anything like a familiar word.

Then in the summer between 2nd and 3rd grades, I was given a discarded reader (3rd grade, I think). I remember the brightly colored pictures and stories I wanted to gobble up. The fairy tale about the hill of glass, and excerpts from books like Understood Betsy (the chapter where she and Molly get left behind at the fair and have to make their way home). These memories are mixed with the rocking chair in which I sat and the sun streaming through my bedroom window. I learned to read that summer because reading gave me entry into wonderful worlds, places I wanted to be, and people I wanted to know more about. I dove into the books on my own shelves. I think that by the time I entered 3rd grade, I was reading and a 5th or 6th grade level.

So what did I read in 5th and 6th grade?

Anything I could get my hands on!

By this time, I was checking out library books and snatching books from the shelves of the classrooms. I read Black Beauty and Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island  and Stuart Little and Dr. Seuss. And anything with horses or dogs in it: The Black Stallion and the Albert Payson Terhune books featuring collies (Lassie -- the original version with Roddy MacDowell -- was very popular). It wasn't until high school that I tackled Crime and Punishment and then discovered Andre Norton, my gateway drug into fantasy and science fiction.

I don't remember how I came by that reader, but I am so grateful to whoever it was.

How and when did you fall in love with books?

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