I don’t remember ever not loving reading. Reading has always been one of my favorite activities. I may even be a compulsive reader. I once saw an advertisement for a tote bag. On the front it read,” A day without reading is like a day without . . . . Oh, never mind. I wouldn’t know.” That’s me exactly.
I once had a dream. I dreamed about a mermaid who fell in love with a human. She gave up her voice in order to become one. Every time she took a step, her legs burned like fire. The human fell in love with someone else, so she gave him up and became a spirit. I knew all the details of the dream. It was such a wonderful story. I always meant to write it and sell it. It wasn’t until many years later that I read “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen and realized it was my dream. I must have heard the story somewhere and either dreamed about it or thought I had dreamed it. I was so disappointed. (My love of that story partially accounts for my dislike of the Disney movie. My other reason for disliking the movie comes from the awful thematic content!)
My fourth grade teacher—Mr. Nelson—triggered a huge growth spurt in my love of reading. He gave each of us a file folder with a number of challenges for the year—memorize all the state capitals and the presidents of the United States; pass off certain math facts in a limited time; complete mental math goals; read an issue of the National Geographic; do 5 oral book reports; memorize poetry; do oral reports on a country, president, science subject, and 40 news reports; get 115 100% scores on spelling tests; and finally, make a list of all the books we read during the year. I was on fire. I read and read and read. I could read two of the Childhood of Famous Americans series in a night—200 pages a piece. I read Little Women, The Boxcar Children, Schoolhouse Mystery, Dolly Madison, The Velvet Room, Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet, Jane Addams, Miss Hickory, Miracles on Maple Hill, Follow My Leader, Pocahontas, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Homer Price, Call It Courage, etc. To “graduate” from 4th grade summa cum laude, we had to read 7000 pages. I was determined to make that goal. But once I met the goal, I couldn’t stop reading. By the end of the year I had read 23,683 pages!
Miss Buss, my sixth-grade teacher, knew of my love of reading. She kept suggesting to me that I read Little Britches by Ralph Moody. Little Britches!—didn’t sound very interesting. I didn’t read it. Finally, Miss Buss tricked me. She started reading it aloud to our class. I was hooked. I checked the book out of the library and finished it ahead of the class. Then I read the rest of the series. Ralph Moody is still one of my favorites.
We had a bookmobile that stopped in our neighborhood. It was a library on wheels—a big truck-like vehicle that you could walk around inside. It was lined with books. I met the bookmobile every week with my library card and checked out enough books to last me the week.
Later I discovered the classics. I read them voraciously. In school my teachers assigned us books to read. I read them, then during the summer I read everything else the authors of those books had written—all of Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Somerset Maugham, John Steinbeck, and much of Theodore Dostoyevsky and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
When I went to college, my parents thought I would major in math. But I knew I couldn’t give up books. I majored in English. I still read–almost every day. I have started recording my books on Goodreads. I wish I had a list of everything I’ve read.
One of my favorite activities was reading books to my children. We had story time every day after lunch. We read for at least an hour. When the children were young, I often fell asleep while I was reading to them. We read many books, including many of my fourth-grade favorites. Books line our walls and there are bookshelves in every bedroom. Books are my favorite gift—to give and to receive. I think I’ll go read a book.