I don’t remember being unable to read.
From the time I was four years old, I was either reading (or memorizing) picture books. I owned a giant set of the Disney gold-spined books, as well as a number of books that came with tapes that told you when to turn the page. By the time I was in first grade, I tested at 13th grade reading level, otherwise known as at college level. I remember being given chapter books to read by my teachers. I distinctly remember receiving my copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a red-covered, worn copy with a picture of the chocolate river and Willy Wonka on the front. I remember being given old readers that weren’t going to be used at school anymore, and reading the stories within them over and over, discovering excerpts of books that I wouldn’t even realize had more to them until later on in life.
My parents still tell stories about me when I was little, and about how I have no sense of direction because I spent my formative years in the backseat of the car with my nose in a book. I read everywhere I went, and remember being told to put my book down while I ate, and to stop reading and go to sleep, because I sure wasn’t a morning person and wasn’t going to want to get up in the morning. If I couldn’t read a book, I’d read anything around me, including the cereal box if necessary while eating breakfast. I’ve always absorbed my world through the printed word.
As a result, you can imagine how large my vocabulary was at any given age. To this day, I sometimes still get slightly funny looks because of the words I choose to use.
My grandma has always been a reader. As I got older, she supplied me with books she’d already read, letting me loose on bags of books that if I or my cousin didn’t take that would be headed to Goodwill or the library. I spent time shopping with my mom at Superior Thrift, because there were shelves and shelves of books for me to peruse, me turning my head back and forth while slowly stepping across each shelf, searching the titles for anything interesting. My favorite birthday gift has always been books or a gift card to buy books, whether on Barnes and Noble or Amazon.
I grew up not knowing many people who liked to read as much as I did. I only knew a few people in school who liked to read, but they were more of the “got in trouble for reading with the book under your desk during class” type of readers than the ones like me, who actually immensely enjoyed reading the books assigned for class. School introduced me to many books, such as The Egypt Game and Bridge to Terabithia in younger years, and later ones like The Great Gatsby, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Taming of the Shrew, Pride and Prejudice, and even later Northanger Abbey, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, Les Miserables.
There were times throughout the years that I ended up doing a lot less reading than I would have liked, got stuck in a rut with friends, and life, and school, and oddly, required reading. It inspired me to go on book-reading sprees, once during my sophomore year of college and once during the summer between my junior and senior year of college.
Today, I look back on my many years of fast reading and wish that I was still at that point. Sometimes I even wish I still had the amount of time I used to have to read. It saddens me that it sometimes takes me a month to finish a book when something of the same length used to take me a couple of days, tops. One day, if it was 200 pages or less. But I still enjoy reading, and the journey it takes me on.
The thing about reading is that it takes me on an adventure, to another place I’ve never been. It can travel me to a fictional post-apocalyptic time, like in The Stand, or to an alternate society like in The Hunger Games or Brave New World. I meet people who have never existed but sometimes you’d like to meet someone just like them in real life. It’s an escape from reality, that at times, is direly needed. For me, it’s easy to slip into the world of a book, and when the book’s finished, feeling emotionally drained and spent from being forcibly dragged out of it. Reading is more than just an action: it’s an experience.
I have four young cousins. They range from age 14 to age 3. The oldest one is like me, reads as many books as she can get her hands on. The two in the middle aren’t really readers (yet :P) and the youngest is a year or two from reading at all. I hope that in the future, I can help to instill in all of them the type of love for reading that I have, because it has truly rewarded and enriched my life. I hope that when/if I have children of my own, that I can take that first step to putting books in front of them, like my own parents did, so that we have something to share in that’s good, educational, and expands your mind from a very young age. And of course, it’s simply fun.
Do you like to read? What or who started you reading, and when did you realize that you liked it? What types of books do you like to read? Let me know in the comments.