As children, other kids got trinkets and toys in their Easter baskets. I got Heidi or The Secret Garden or The Little Princess. I would grab my basket, run to my room, and read my book whilst nibbling on a chocolate bunny’s ear.
The summer reading program at the library never lasted long enough for me. The goal was to read 100 books over the summer. Most kids petered out after a dozen. I made it through all 100 in a couple weeks. If there was a new librarian who questioned my integrity when I handed in my list of completed reads, one of the long-term librarians who recognized me would step over and set her straight. I was known.
My 5th grade teachers would read to us after we came in from lunch. I would lay my head on my desk to cool down as I heard David and the Phoenix and Where the Red Fern Grows (my heart still breaks), and Choose Your Own Adventures. They would only read us one chapter at a time. Sometimes even our teachers found it so agonizing to stop that they would grant us one more chapter! We’d beg and plead for more but no, two was always the limit. (A friend just reminded me of this happy memory. I miss the days of being read to).
At some point books transitioned from simple stories with a life lesson to escapes from reality. There were worlds between the covers that would transport me elsewhere. There were characters that would make me laugh and make me weep. There were villains that made my heart beat so fast that my adrenaline coursed and I tore a bit of the page as I quickly turned it to see what happened next.
By 6th grade my teacher tried to fail me on a book report, telling my mother I had obviously plagiarized it because someone my age couldn’t possibly have the vocabulary that I had used. My mother defended me furiously. “Ask her. Go ahead. Ask her! Ask her what it means!”
I must have had the only mother in the world who got mad that I was reading too much instead of being outside playing. I ate up mysteries. I could read a Three Investigators novel in 3 hours.
(Both my parents are avid readers. It’s my dad from whom I get my speed-reading ability.)
The summer before my freshman year in high school, my mother handed me a stack of 3×5 cards, a dictionary, and Wuthering Heights, with the instructions to read the book, write any words I didn’t know on a 3×5 card, and then look up and write out the definition next to it. If anything would have killed my love for reading, this would have—yet it prevailed!