My Love Affair With Reading
When I was a child, I hated reading. I despised it. I loathed it. I abhorred it. I...you get the picture. and I certainly don't need to be wasting either of our times playing around with thesauruses. Sure, as a very young child I loved picture books. Who doesn't love The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ? And I loved curling up with my siblings to listen to my father read The Hobbit with all it's Gollum glory or climbing into the RV to head off on some camping trip and having my mother read The Whipping Boy to entertain us during the 5-hour drive to Tangle Lakes. But when it came to picking up a book myself, it felt like torture.
I come from a family of readers. My parents had an actual library in my childhood home. Not just a couple of bookshelves, but a room specifically meant for the storing and reading of books. It may not have been up to the city library's standards, but any room that needs a ladder to get to all the books is as official a library as one can get without issuing library cards. My parents are often found with books in their hands, and I don't know if they ever have a time when they are not reading something. So, imagine their horror when they discovered my complete and utter disinterest.
I have very clear memories of my mother coercing me into reading. When that didn't work, she assigned me to do it as though it were one of my chores. I remember one summer day, my mother handing me one of the Encyclopedia Brown books and saying that I had to read at least a chapter and give her a report on what I read. She promptly left me in her bedroom where there wouldn't be any distractions; I then spent more time trying to figure out a way to get around reading it than the actual reading would have taken. I don't know why, but I've always struggled with reading books that have been assigned to me. To this day, if I pick up a book because I "have" to, I tend not to enjoy it all that much. It feels too much like work, and reading should be fun. I guess I'm just stubborn. Or idiotic. Take your pick.
The thing was, I just needed to find the right book to suck me in. I swear there just weren't that many good juvenile books when I was a kid. I hated anything Newberry Award-ish (they tend to be too preachy or coming of age for my tastes). I wasn't a fan of murder mysteries, so Nancy and her friends the Hardy Boys were of no help. And past that, it felt impossible to find anything that struck my fancy.
Then it all changed.
When I was about 11 or 12, I stumbled across Brian Jacques' Redwall. I remember very clearly that "ah-ha" moment when I realized I loved that story. I couldn't wait to hear the next chapter. I got antsy to know what would happen next. It was like a compulsion forcing me to get back to the book. I dove into that series with tenacity and tore through each book. When I finished it, I started to jump into other books and series.
As I mentioned, I wasn't a fan of most of the books intended for younger audiences at that time (not to mention there just wasn't the same variety and quantity that we have nowadays), so I kept jumping up and up the reading levels until I was consuming the words of Alexandre Dumas, Thomas Hardy , Charles Dickens , and Baroness Emmuska Orczy.
I spent more of my time reading than just about anything else. My teachers began complaining that I spent class time reading rather than paying attention. When my mother brought that to my attention, I pointed out that she pushed so hard for so long for me to love reading, which she did not appreciate (surprisingly enough).
I love to write because I would love to be able to touch someone the way Mr. Jacques touched my life. Those books and stories shaped my childhood and had an incredible impact on my teen years. I love the power of novels.