Monday, April 23, 2012

Five Reasons I Became a Reader

I have been an avid reader for most of my life, so it always puzzles me when I hear people say they don’t read. What would I do if I didn’t read? I can’t even imagine it. But when I do stumble upon those people who don’t read for pleasure, it makes me reflect on why I turned out to be the kind of person who does. These are the reasons I’ve come up with:
  • My parents both read to me when I was little. From The Poky Little Puppy and Eloise to The Boxcar Children, and "The Cremation of Sam McGee", to Betsy-Tacy and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, my parents read to my sister and me right on up to our teens. Both my parents read with a lot of expression, and that really engaged me in every story we shared. I think it was also significant that we read together for the fun of it, even after my sister and I both knew how to read on our own. We watched a lot of TV in our family, and my father worked long hours that weren’t always conducive to being home at bedtime, but I was never told there wasn’t time to read, and I always looked forward to what would happen in the next chapter.
  • I’ve always been surrounded by books. In addition to reading to me, my parents also made sure I had my own collection of books. I can remember being only four years old and receiving the Weekly Reader books, and the Serendipity books in the mail. We always went to the library when I was small, and when I turned 10, it was the first place I was allowed to visit without my parents. We also made trips to bookstores - both the little Waldenbooks in the nearby shopping mall and the larger bookstores we passed on bigger shopping trips to larger cities. I can’t remember a time when I chose a book I was not allowed to have - I think our only limitation was on the number of books, or the maximum amount we could spend on a given day. I had my own bookshelf, which I remember organizing and reorganizing. I even tried getting my sister to play library with me, forcing her to check the books out and bring them back on time. I think it was especially important that I had my own books - they weren’t the family’s books, or even to be shared with my sister. She had her own, and I had my own, and sometimes we swapped, but we always knew whose was whose. I really felt a sense of pride about owning all those books, and I think I read more just because the books were there.
  • I aspire to write. I distinctly remember being six years old and telling my father, “Daddy, if you can read it, you can write it.” I assume I learned this nugget of wisdom from my first grade teacher (who was also my third grade teacher). She introduced me to Writer’s Workshop, this great program where kids write, revise, and then “publish” a final copy of their work. This is where I first learned how to properly punctuate dialogue, and where I truly began to understand how stories function. As I got older, my desire to write grew stronger, and I started keeping track of different quotations that meant something to me. In college, I took creative writing classes - and often my reading assignments for those classes were the only ones I managed to complete on time. Even now, when I read children’s books, there is a part of me that is always inspired to come up with my own stories. I don’t always do it, but even if I’m never anything more than “aspiring” I think the fact that I enjoy putting pen to paper and creating my own characters and plots keeps me interested in books.
  • Books provide escape. Middle school was a difficult time for me, but I was always able to find solace in a book. I can remember carrying Thames Doesn’t Rhyme with James and the first Baby-sitters Club Super Mystery around with me in my backpack during middle school, ready to pull them out at a moment’s notice. They were especially handy during less structured times like study hall and lunch, when bullies were out in full force and adults weren’t always on hand to discipline them. Somehow, putting a book in front of my face, even if I was reading the same passages over and over again, eased my anxieties and made middle school torment bearable. 
  • I became a librarian. This is a very chicken-or-the-egg type question - am I a librarian because I love books, or do I love books because I’m a librarian? Honestly, in my case, I think librarianship is what has given me the permission to read children’s books as an adult. I stopped reading for pleasure almost altogether once I went to college, and I think it was because I felt silly continuing to read kids’ books when my classmates were quoting philosophy texts. But once I made the decision to pursue librarianship, all bets were off. I fell in love with all the children’s books I had missed during my late teens and early twenties, and haven’t looked back since. 
What has shaped your reading life?  Why do you read? Comment below to share your experiences.

6 comments :

  1. I too was read to as a child and had a few books all my own. My favourite, Black Beauty, was a gift from my grandparents who loved to gift books at Christmas. Books were an escape for me all through elementary school, junior high and high school. Oh the places you could go and the things you could do! I loved it and often blocked out everything and everyone else around me when I was reading. To this day I "collect" books and LOVE bookstores. (I happen to work in a bookstore!) The dream of becoming a writer was instilled in me as a very young person, and it lives on today though I haven't actively been writing of late.

    Books have and continue to shape my life. Today I read to blog and blgo to read and for the sheer enjoyment each book brings.

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    1. Thanks for your sharing your thoughts. What a lovely memory of your grandparents!

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  2. Oh! I empathize with so much of this post. I love it. Especially the parts about growing up with books (my mom is a retired elementary school teacher) and finding books to be an escape.

    Some of my earliest book memories are my parents reading THE FIRE CAT and THE LITTLE HOUSE to me.

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    1. I remember The Little House - I'm sure my mom must have read it to me, since it came in the mail from the book club she signed me up for!

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  3. I kept nodding my head as I read this post - all true for me! And I still read all sorts of books - kids, YA, fiction, nonfiction, "lit-er-ature" and just plain fluff. Escape, knowledge, adventure, wonder...

    That's why getting books into chidren's homes is so very, very important. It's lovely to be able to check out library books or borrow them from your teacher, but to truly own a book and reread it whenever you like is powerful for a child.

    Let's keep 'blogging the good fight' to get the right books into the hands and hearts of the right readers. And Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a million times better as a book!

    **Katy M
    Recommending YA books beyond the bestsellers at
    http://BooksYALove.blogspot.com
    Follow me on Twitter @BooksYALove

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I totally agree about the power of owning books!

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