Recently in one of my classes we were asked to write a paper about our relationship with reading–to delve into our memories for the first time we read, for the feelings we had when escaping into a book, what books we read and why, all the way up to the present. At first I was a bit reluctant to write this paper. I had convinced myself that I had no memories from when I was younger & from when I first began to read–and for the most part that’s true. My memories of my childhood are cloudy. Some memories stand out–most of them are unpleasant, like the time I was reprimanded by my 2nd grade teacher for a mistake I made an an event (I later found out she wasn’t a fan of my mother who worked during the day…but that’s a story for another time). Other memories are silly like my first crush in Kindergarten which I quickly dismissed when I found out he was a Jeff Gordon fan and not a Dale Earnhardt fan like me and my family were (yes NASCAR was a thing in our family for some reason). I also remember playing soccer when I was 6 or 7–back when the teams were co-ed and you practically ran around the field without any structure.
But I couldn’t quite remember anything revolving around reading. My mother swears she read to me a young child, but for the life of me I just can’t remember much to the disappointment of my mom. I can’t remember signing up for a library card or learning to read in school. Instead my earliest memory resides in my struggles to read through Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. I can’t remember if it was third or fourth grade, I just remember being asked if I was still reading that book as my teacher checked on our ‘reading list’ that we would fill out each week. Again, not the clearest of memories, but still as memory of reading non the less. So maybe I didn’t block out all my childhood memories with reading after all.
As I chatted with my mom some more, other memories began to flash back to me. Mainly, memories surrounding people and places versus actual emotions from reading certain books. While I don’t remember my mom reading to me, she did impress upon me that she spent hours doing so. My favorite books were apparently the Little Golden Spine books–specifically the Disney ones. I was obsessed with Disney from an early age it seems. But looking back on the time frame (early 90s), I’m not surprised since the animated movies were popping out into theaters around that time.
My clearest memory of a book from when I was little was a collection of fairtales–Random House Book of Fairy Tales. I specifically remember the story & illustrations for The Emperor’s New Clothes. Looking back, I’m not surprised that I remember this particular collection as I’ve always had an affinity for the paranormal and fantasy genres over the years. My love of these genres continues today.
My mother also impressed upon me the many hours I spent looking for books both in the library and in a bookstore. While I remember these long afternoons in the library as an older child (an apparent pattern that has continued since), it seems that I was also like this when I was younger. I can’t remember my first time in a library (as I mentioned above), but I still hold onto and use my first library card. I believe that I must have signed up for one when I was around six-years-old. My signature on the card definitely suggests that age. While the library card has begun to get rather beat up, I still use it today at my hometown library. It has definitely garnered a lot of miles.
Like I mentioned above, my earliest memory of reading took place in school as I struggled through Shiloh for the first time. It’s not a surprise that I remember this clearer than other earlier memories. Time spent in school has made up most of my (young) life. That memory of reading Shiloh is just the beginning of some of my memories of reading.
When I entered school, I was introduced to another side of reading–required reading. Some of the books I remembered reading as a child stem from a school assignment; whether it was assigned summer reading or something we read together as a class over the course of the school year. Some of the titles that stand out were from my middle elementary school years. We were assigned to read Where the Red Fern Grows, A Bridge to Terabithia, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and one of my favorite’s — A Wrinkle in Time. Other times we got to choose the book. I remember in fifth grade I was so excited to read A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi for a school assignment.
Rinaldi had become a quick obsession of mine during one summer. I remember reading through all of her books that the library had. I took them out in groupings of four or five and brought them to my grandmother’s house. She would watch me during the summertime since both of my parents worked full-time. Her house became like a second home and I spent many summers there. I have a clear memory of laying on the living room floor while my grandmother sat on the couch. My grandfather was either out walking or working in the backyard. I had about seven books surrounding me, many of them were by Rinaldi. My grandmother and I had just gotten back from the library that morning and I remember spending the whole afternoon lying on that floor reading. My grandmother sat on the couch behind me reading as well. The Girl in Blue by Rinaldi became a quick favorite of mine after I finished it that afternoon.
That summer afternoon is the first memory I have of being a real bookworm. I was a quick learner in school, but I don’t recall any memories of being an avid reader until that moment. I have of course retained this status of bookworm and my habits to “binge read” afternoons away.
It was also around this time that I first joined into the Harry Potter phenomena of my generation. I was a bit late to the game. I remember receiving the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone around the time that the book first came out. I remember reading the first chapter and not understanding what was happening at all and quite frankly was a little bored. I distinctly remember wondering what the deal was with the cat and why there was a cat following this family around. I quickly put the book aside and eventually donated it.
This all changed the year that the first movie came out in 2001. I remember seeing the movie for the first time and instantly knowing that I had to read these books. I had finally understood what the storyline was about. My parents bought me a paperback box set of books 1-4 and I quickly read through them all. It was with these books that I really latched on to the fantasy and paranormal genres. From there it was all about when the next Harry Potter book would come out. They were always released in July and I remember always having to beg my parents to take me to the bookstore to get them on release day. Usually they coincided with a cousin’s party that my grandmother on my father’s side hosted. So we’d drive down to Philadelphia for the party after picking up the book and I’d get to read it throughout the whole drive (and even throughout the party if I was lucky).
A lot of people I know attribute either Harry Potter or Twilight with turning them into readers. While, I was already binge reading books from the library, I think I’d have to agree that Harry Potter turned me if not into a reader, definitely into a better reader. Not only that, but Harry Potter turned me into a serial reader. I loved that there was always one more book. I loved that it was like growing up with Harry and in turn like growing up with the movie actors as well. Harry Potter, Hermione and Ron became friends that I clung to as I grew up. It is one story that I can definitively say shaped me not only as a reader, but as a person. Additionally, this was my first experience belonging to a fandom–a new type of community for me.
While the Harry Potter books were still in my periphery during the rest of elementary school and middle school, I continued to read frequently
(to be continued…)
**I didn’t want this to be too long, so I’m going to be posting this in a series until I’ve finished my thoughts/essay on the matter. Parts of this post has been pulled from my already written essay whereas other parts I’ve added. I’m looking at posting one part each week in probably a 3 part series.
I hope you enjoyed a look into my relationship with reading and I hope that you continue on with me in the next few posts.**
Do you have an earliest memory of reading? I’d love to hear some of your memories with reading and how reading has shaped you!
As always, thanks for stopping by & Happy Reading!