I am not sure exactly when my love of reading started except to say that I was surrounded by books and literacy. It was part of what we did in my household. Some of my first memories are the weekly trips to the public library to pick out our picture books for the week. I remember being upset because we had to narrow down our choices to fit within the strict 10 book limit. From before I can remember, my mother had made it a point to read with us every night.
Then I started school at Crestwood Elementary School. When I entered first grade, I had Mr. Szudy as my teacher. I remember the magical read-aloud time and being introduced to Fudge and his hilarious adventures. There was a loft in this classroom and it was so exciting when it was my turn to climb up into the loft and lose myself in a book. At the time, I did not realize how lucky I was to be going to that school. All over the country there were reading wars happening and I had lucked upon a whole language school that was going to let me feed my reading habit and devour books. Over the years in school I was introduced to amazing literature and even got a chance to give feedback for the very first American Girl stories (the mother of a fellow third-grade classmate worked at the publishing company). My school experiences certainly helped me to learn a love of reading.
Over the years, my reading was encouraged at home also. In my house, reading was an essential part of life. My mother sped-read through all kinds of books, but mostly bestselling novels. My father always had a thick Stephen King thriller that he was making his way through. He stayed up way too late every night reading his books, even when he was sick and should have been sleeping more. For every holiday my most coveted presents were the new books that were sure to be in the pile. You loved the Easter candy in your basket? Well, the jokes on you because I got Anne of Green Gables in my basket, not those gross Peeps. There were books all over our house and I coveted and cared for my books as if they had feelings. Time for reading was treasured also. I loved bedtime because I got to lose myself in the world of my book for a few minutes before lights out. Then, once the lights were out and my mother was safely back downstairs, I would hang out of my bed just enough to catch the hallway light so I could sneak read. My mom knew enough to not let me have a flashlight anywhere near my bed, but she didn't know about this (or so I thought). I spent many nights staying up way too late to finish a book because I just had to know what happened to that character.
My relationship with my grandparents had book love all over it also. My grandpa was the type of person who read everything in sight. You had to be careful what you left out on the table because he was not past picking up that piece of mail and reading through it. He didn't mean to be prying, he just couldn't help it...if anyone was a reading addict it was him. Although I didn't share the same taste in reading with him, my grandpa influenced my reading habits greatly. He had shelves full of thick tomes about the Civil War and piles of old issues of The NewYorker and Vanity Fair lying around the house. When I was there, he would read the newspaper every morning and always had a book around for those times when there was a lull in conversation. My grandmother was just as much a reader as he was, but she influenced my reading habits in a much more direct way. Grandma read with me and to me every time I was over at their house (which was most Friday nights--I used to call them up and invite myself over). We had old favorites that we went back to again and again and she is the one who started me on my lifelong love of mysteries. Grandma had read every Agatha Christie book there was and I made it a personal challenge to do the same. I had great fun reading the books--I started when I was 10 and had read them all by the time I left high school. Some of my fondest memories and most treasured possessions are books that I shared with Grandma.
I remember going to library used book sales and used book stores with my grandparents. I would spend hours poring over the selection of books that were available as my grandparents went to their respective sections to look for treasures of their own. When I was visiting them in Florida, we headed to the local used bookstore and bought a pile of Nancy Drew and Baby-Sitters Club books for me to read. On a beach vacation that was what you did. You got the trail mix ready, got in your swimsuit, and then proceeded to lie on the towel and read in the sun. Yes, you might get up and swim once in a while, but then it was right back to reading for you.
Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite books because of the special place it held in my relationship with my grandmother. We spent many nights reading together from the books in the series and learning about Anne Shirley's adventures. When PBS made the movies, my grandmother and I spent hours watching the telethons and experiencing the wacky adventures of Anne with an e. We also delighted in The Adventures of Treehorn. This was not a well-known book and I derived secret delight from the fact that we had a private treasure to share. The book was illustrated by Edward Gorey so anytime I see his famous illustrations it makes me smile inside.
My love for reading did not stop in childhood. In college, I decided to study engineering because I had always been good at math and science. I knew I would have limited time and I did not want to give up reading, so I took literature classes as electives. I loved it that my homework for those classes was to read good books. I made my way through so many amazing classes with introductions to many great authors. In fact, I took so many English classes that when I decided not to continue in Electrical Engineering my junior year of school, there were only three more English classes I needed to take to be finished with the major.
Now, as a teacher, I work hard to instill the same sense of wonder and enjoyment of reading in my students. I read voraciously and make sure my students know this about me. I read books that are written for middle grade students and young adults so that I can be sure to know what books to recommend to my students. I eat, sleep, and dream reading. There is never a night that I don't read at least a few pages before nodding off to sleep. I share books with my mom and sister. I even converted my husband from a person who never read to someone who I can share books with. He even recommends books to me now. My students know that when they want to talk books, I am the one to come to and I have taken pride in watching some students become the voracious readers that I hoped they would become. The biggest compliment I have ever received as a teacher was when a parent gave me the credit for her daughter's love of reading and thanked me profusely for it.
Over the years I have found friends in books. I spent many a stormy night with Meg and Charles Wallace. I spent summer afternoons sluething with Nancy and Trixie. I fell off the rooftop and into the lake with Anne. I created a business with Claudia, Mary Anne, Stacey, Kristy and Dawn. I traveled the Orient Express with Poirot. I cried until my eyes could cry no more with Scarlett's heartbreak. There have been many more friends and experiences along the way and I know there will be many more. I continue to be astounded by the amazing talents of authors and will willingly transport myself to the many other worlds there are out there for as long as writers create those worlds.
To the nerdy book club bloggers and other teachers out there writing about their love of reading: Thank you for giving inspiration to many to continue to raise readers. I have been so inspired and re-energized by the amazing network of readers, writers, and teachers out there.