I remember the very first book I read by myself as a kid. I don’t recall the title, but I can still see the illustrations in my mind’s eye – clocks and animals with simple words. I read that book nothing short of a thousand times, feeling so proud of myself each time because I was able to read the book on my own. From the moment I could read by myself, I was hooked. Little did I know how much reading would mean to me as I aged. As an independent person, my ability to read is paramount to me learning new things about cooking, building objects, or simply to satisfy my curiosity on a certain subject.
Before I was able to read to myself, the best days were when teachers would read the Amelia Bedelia books, because they were hilarious to me. I loved seeing how Amelia would confuse things. The Frog and Toad books also filled me with much excitement. I enjoy reading them to my own children now.
Some of my favorite novels to read as a kid were those in a series, such as The Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, and The Baby-Sitters Club. I was always rushing off to the town or school libraries to check out the next book in the series, and read countless numbers of these books.
My favorite standalone book from childhood was a book I read in third grade, called Letters From Rifka by Karen Hesse, about a Jewish girl who had to leave Russia in 1919, but becomes separated from her family at Ellis Island. In the book Rifka writes journal entries about what is happening in her life and on her journey. This book opened up the world for me; I remember for the first time feeling empathy for a character’s struggles, interest in history, and the cultures of people who were different from me. I would love to buy a copy of this book to read again as an adult and give to my kids to read someday!
Then came Harry Potter and Hogwarts. Like every 90’s kid, I was drawn into the Sorcerer’s Stone in my fourth grade year. The characters were the same age as I was at the time, making the story all that much more compelling and relatable. As a lonely child who was the new kid in school for the second time in a year, I was drawn into Harry’s story and felt myself wishing for my own letter of acceptance to Hogwarts and great friends like Ron and Hermione. Each year I anxiously looked forward to the release of the next book in the series and would spend the day (sometimes two) locked in my room reading, annoyed by any interruption, even the interruption of meal-time. The final book came out the summer before my senior year of high school. Like many of my fellow Potterheads, I rushed to my local store at midnight with my little brother in tow to buy a copy of The Deathly Hallows. The series and characters grew with me, and will always hold such a special place in my heart. And, I’m still waiting for my Hogwarts letter to come – hint, hint.
After about sixth grade my reading slowed down dramatically. I finally had moved to a good school, made friends, and started playing sports which was a welcome thing, but meant I had less time for reading. I do remember two books I read in junior high for English that helped dramatically open my mind, however. One was Number the Stars and the other was The Giver. Number the Stars is the book that made me love learning about World War II, and The Giver made me realize maybe the government and society did not really have people’s best interests at heart. It frightened me and made me consider possibilities I had never thought of prior to that point. The Giver was a mind opening book that I still reflect on today.
As I got into high school and into AP English classes, I stopped reading for enjoyment because I was always reading something for class. We even had to read books over the summer! All summer long I would be plagued with nightmares about forgetting to finish the book in time, and failing the test on the first day of school. Reading became a chore (curse you The Old Man and the Sea!), and wasn’t enjoyable anymore with the exception of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares.
It wasn’t until the summer after I graduated high school did I start reading again…all thanks to Twilight. 😉 I had just gotten married myself, and Bella was a relatable character. I read all four books in less than a week and was upset with myself for reading too fast. At this time, Kindles had only recently come out and there wasn’t a library near me (gasp, I know!), which made reading an expensive hobby. My husband knew of a used bookstore in Denver that sold inexpensive books, so each time we were in the city I would stock up. I read a lot of Dean Koontz, Mary Higgins Clark, and Jodi Picoult around this time because the store, Black and Read, had tons of their books.
At the end of 2015, I finally discovered how inexpensive Kindle books could be AND Colleen Hoover, thanks to Sabrina. Plus, we finally lived near a library again. From that point, I was able to read at a speed that suited me, without needing to savor my books because I didn’t have anything to read after I finished. This catches up to present time and my deep love for the authors I discovered last year: Tarryn Fisher, Amy Harmon, Christine Brae, and more. Now I have an out of control TBR pile and more books than I can read this year alone, but that won’t stop me from trying. I’m in a bit of a competition with myself to read more books than the 101 I finished last year. I’m ahead of my pace from last year, averaging close to 10 books a month, so I should be able to achieve my goal.
This summer I am looking forward to heading back to Colorado for vacation and stopping by Black and Read again to snag some souvenirs.
As you can see, reading has always been a huge part of my life. I didn’t realize what an avid reader I have almost always been until I started reflecting and writing this post. I’m thankful for a world full of many great storytellers and books to educate me on any subject I desire, or to simply help me relax at the end of a long day. Now if we could get rid of the stigma of reading being only for “nerds”, we will have accomplished something great. For now, I will proudly let my inner “nerd” shine through.
I would love to hear about the books that shaped you into the readers you are today in the comments!