One of my favourite things to ask fellow book lovers is how they became a reader. Did their parents read to them every night? Did they pick up reading to shut out a louder, older sibling? Was it something they had to learn to love? As someone who would want my kids to be readers (if I have kids, that is), I’m always interested to hear how readers are “created,” and whether the love of reading is an inherent thing or something that we learn to do. Of course, I understand that we could be a little bit of both, so hearing anecdotes is usually the most interesting and educational.
I have vague memories of being read to as a child, but I think the reason why I really got into reading was because I was a really extroverted kid who wanted to have someone to play with ALL the time. My sister wasn’t born until I was 6, so I had to take matters into my own hands and find friends in books. I remember loving the Berenstain Bears, Amelia Bedelia, Little House on the Prairie, and later, Gordon Korman’s wonderful books. These stories and characters grew up with me and we spent countless hours together in a little dream world.
When I started going to school, I loved when my teachers would read to us. I remember begging my mom to buy me the first Harry Potter book because I couldn’t stand having to “read” the book at my teacher’s pace as she was reading it to us chapter by chapter. That was probably one of the first series I was ever obsessed with (and still am).
I guess you could say “the rest is history”: I’ve never stopped reading. (Well, except this one time.) I really can’t imagine not being a reader. It may seem hyperbolic to say this, but reading has truly made my life so much better. It’s a passion that I’m glad I found at a young age and I would love to be able to encourage other people to read more in whatever way I can. (Sometimes that means being that person who only buys kids books for holidays…)
Anyway, enough about my story! What is yours? Did you love reading as a child, or was it something you grew to love later on? Do you remember the book (or books) that convinced you that reading was cool? Call it curiosity or call it research for the future but I’d love to know!
27 thoughts on “Monday Musings | How To Build a Reader”
I’ve been reading since I remember learning to read. I don’t recall my parents every reading to me, so I just developed this love of reading on my own. I guess I’m the black sheep of the family because none of my younger siblings are into it. Perhaps one day they will. Thank you for sharing your story. I like knowing there are people just like me. 🙂
And thank you for sharing YOUR story! I guess for you, you really were born with a love of reading!
I totally loved reading as a kid. I don’t really remember being read to, but I do remember my mom herself reading all of the time. I think it probably helped that I learned to read relatively easily. I now work with special education students, and it makes me sad when they dread reading (which I can understand why, but it makes you so inspired to find ways to share great literature with them and help them learn to read). My 9 year old niece loves reading, and it is just so awesome to talk to her about the books she loves, and wander into a bookstore with her, taking in all of her enthusiasm for the countless choices available. I can’t imagine my life without reading!
I can’t imagine my life without reading either. I think it’s so wonderful that you work with special education students and I’m sure they’re thankful to have you as a guide! I totally get how reading could become a dreaded task – as much as I love reading, I never read in Chinese because it frustrates me so much! (My Chinese isn’t good enough to read as quickly as I’d like.) I hope you and your niece can visit all the bookstores, one store at a time!
I got into reading because of my Grandmother. We used to take long family vacations when I was a little boy. Saw a lot of Europe by car. While we were driving, my gran used to read Agatha Christie books to us. It was cool as heck to see all the beauties of Europe, but I was more interested in getting back into the car so I could hear another chapter of a Poirot mystery! That’s how my love of reading — and mysteries in particular got started. She was a wonderful lady, and the gift of loving to read was just one of the many gifts she bestowed.
I loved your story, Justin. It’s so sweet and I definitely can see the love you have for her. Those are some wonderful memories!
I do find it interesting that you say you became a reader because you were an extrovert; for me it was totally the opposite (and still is).
I honestly can’t remember a time in my childhood where I didn’t love reading. I don’t really remember being read to, but I was reading by the time I was three, so I can only assume that was cultivated by my parents rather than picked up on my own. (Apparently when my brother was a baby, some of my relatives asked if I was going to teach him how to read – I was known as a bookworm even then – and my 5-year-old-logic response was, “You mean he doesn’t already know how?”)
I do remember being confused and disappointed as we got older that my brother never liked reading. I read to him when he was young… he always liked Dr. Seuss and that sort of thing, but when I tried transitioning to chapter books, he just had no interest at all. And he never picked up reading on his own either.
So, definitely a combination of nature and nurture. Now that I’m pregnant with my first, I’m definitely thinking about this sort of thing more and more.
Haha! It’s so cute that you thought your brother would automatically know how to read! I agree that this must be a combination of nature and nurture. It’s really hard to pinpoint exactly why one is or isn’t a reader! (Congratulations again on your pregnancy, by the way! It’s so exciting!)
I’ve always loved reading. My parents read to me every night as a kid — and as I got older, we read things together, alternating pages. (I think the last book was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.) And I pretty much always had my nose in a book, even on 10-minute car rides.
Aw, that’s amazing! I rarely hear parents and kids reading alternate pages; it sounds like so much fun though, especially with a book like Harry Potter where there are so many characters you could act out. I’m going to pinch this idea for whenever I have to read to kids. 🙂
I was read to as a child, but I think I mostly got into it because I loved the stories. And, I am an introvert- I’d rather stay home and read. My mother was also always reading and had a large collection of books. I loved reading the ‘grown-up’ books from her shelf once I was old enough to understand them. It was as rebellious as I got. 🙂
I have 5 brothers and sisters, though, and we are not all readers. So, I really think a lot of it is intrinsic.
I had a good friend who lived a few hours away, but our families went camping together every summer. We loved the L.M. Montgomery books, and would read them together at the same pace. We wrote letters back and forth to let each other know what sections we were on. Sometimes she got ahead and I’d have to go on a reading frenzy to catch up.
All three of my own kids are different types of readers, even though I read a lot to all three of them as young children (another reason I think a lot of it is intrinsic). My oldest reads a lot almost everyday. My second (who is a boy) doesn’t like reading on his own, but he still loves for me to read to him. So, I still do every night even though he is now 11. I love that he still wants me to, and I think he is still getting a lot of the benefits this way. My third likes to read, but not a s much. And, she is pickier about her books. They either have to be funny or too old for her. It’s still early days for her , though. She’s also my sqirmiest child, and has never been good at sitting still for stories. So, I have decided that it’s good to encourage them all you can, but a lot of it is up to them. This ended up being a bit long- sorry! 🙂
I have a now 12 year old sister who we’ve all spent years trying to convince to read. She’s the baby and because we were all readers, I think she thought that not liking to read made her different, something she really valued. She also only liked funny books. She’s coming around now. I think it just takes them time, especially the youngest in the family, to find the things that they want to read. And I think they want to find that on their own. My brother who is a year and a half younger than me was the kid that hated to read, was falling behind in school with his reading because he just wasn’t interested in sitting still that long. Now he has an e-reader that he’s constantly loading up with new things to read.
I think when it is something that’s just a part of your family, you all eventually end up being readers.
Your brother sounds like my son. He was just never good at reading in school, and was far behind most of the others, which I think probably embarrasses him, even though he doesn’t say so. I’ve always tried not to make a big deal of it- just let him know that everyone learns at their own rate, and everyone’s good at different things. I have hope that he will eventually be right alongside the others with his reading, and when it isn’t such a chore anymore, he will want to read for fun. Thanks for your story!
Thanks for sharing your story (and yours too, Eva!). I’ve often pondered whether being the first born makes you more of a reader or not (you may remember the post I wrote about it a few months ago). I love that your son still wants you to read to him; reading is such a bonding activity and I’m sure he loves spending the extra time with you going on new adventures each night 🙂
I love it, too!
My mom read to my brother and I when we were little. And then I started being able to read on my own (I had to learn it twice, once in Dutch and then again in English, really set me back) and I didn’t want her to read to me anymore because I felt like I could read faster on my own. And then I just read all the time. I only had a brother at the time (I’d eventually have 3 sisters and another brother) and he wasn’t interested in all the same things that I was. So Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls Wilder, the March girls and eventually the Bennetts, and the Dashwoods became like my sisters.
I think it starts with just having books in your house. And then trips to the library. Your own library card becomes like this pass to adulthood – you are trusted enough to have your own card, to take books out on your own. That’s big.
All of my siblings are readers. We all read different things and we’ve taken different paths but one thing we can all discuss, across our disparate ages and life stages, is books.
Oh wow! Do you still read in Dutch these days, or mostly in English? I know how to read Chinese but I’m so frustratingly slow at it that I haven’t read a book in Chinese in years.
My story is similar to yours in that I was the oldest sibling who didn’t have too many playmates growing up. I was a total Laura Ingalls Wilder fan too. (I don’t know why I never read Anne of Green Gables growing up; I think I thought it was just a “boring classic.” How wrong was I?!)
So so so wrong.
I dont read in Dutch anymore. For a variety of reasons: I’m slow, it’s hard to get my hands on Dutch books, my vocab is pretty basic. Mostly I’m slow!
Learning to read was my first experience of freedom and I loved it instantly. I even remember the schoolbook used to taught us the alphabet and the first “books” I owned. They were red and yellow little magazines called “J’aime lire” (= “I like reading”) with a short story in the first part and a comic at the end. I used to hide the book under the blanket when my parents come to switch off the light at night. I think I was a bit of a dreamer and reading just fit me perfectly, taking me to other places with all kind of people. It made me travel and kept me company.
Ah, moi aussi j’étais abonné à J’aime Lire!!! Lorsque j’était bibliotechnicienne dans trois écoles primaires, je recevais des copies pour les jeunes. C’est encore populaire. J’aimais aussi la série Contes Roses. Tu connais?
I guess some of us learned to read in English while others first learned in other languages. One thing is universal: our love for storytelling and the places it takes us.
“Contes Roses” ? Pas sûre… J’avais quelques livres de la “Bibliothèque rose” et “Bibliothèque verte”, mais je ne suis pas sûre que ce soit le même chose. Je suis rapidement allée piocher dans le bibliothèque paternelle, donc j’ai pas mal de lacunes en littérature jeunesse!
Ah, tu es probablement trop jeune. C’est tout! 🙂
Agreed! I think book lovers have a special bond, no matter what language they read in 🙂
You’re so right that reading is like a form of freedom! I never really thought about it that way but it’s so true. “J’aime lire” sounds like the perfect schoolbook! I’m sure that the comics really helped draw young readers’ attention 🙂 Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for asking this question! It has pulled up some great memories, which I’ve expanded upon here: http://galadrielwatson.com/2014/11/08/how-i-became-a-reader/ And it’s hard not to be a reader when my name is so tied to a book!
Thank you for sharing, Galadriel! I loved your post so, so much!