Thursday, 2 May 2013

Becoming a Reader

Even though I've been a failure at blogging lately, reading is still a huge part of my life. Heck, it's a huge part of my identity. We were discussing identity in class and our professor asked one student to name two things he would use to describe himself and I started thinking of what I would say and my first response would have been "reader" or "book lover."

But despite the fact it feels like I've been reading my entire life, I was not born knowing how to read. That's not how it works, sadly. So, how did I get here?

My mom. My mom has always been a bit of a workaholic. When I was young, I at least had the benefit of my mom working at home most of the week, but even then, she put in a lot more hours than the average person. Despite this, she always made a point to read to me. To all her kids, really. My mom loves reading, but she never has much time to read for herself because she's always working or being a mom or cooking and during her downtime, she's too tired to focus on a book. But she'll take 10 or 20 minutes to read to her kids for as long as we want her to. Even my younger brother, who's not a big reader, let her read to him until he was 6 or 7.

I started Kindergarten when I was 4 years old (since I have a late birthday). They brought in a person to read to us at least once a week and as more and more kids learned to read, they would sometimes get to be the readers. It was a really great way to encourage us to learn to read as well. Since I was one of the younger kids in the class, there wasn't as much pressure on me to get there. It was okay for me to be a bit behind the others. 

But that wasn't enough to get me to start reading on my own. I mean, I had other people to read FOR me. What else could I need?

Then it happened. I found a reason to start. I was really anxious to start reading the book with my mom one night. I don't remember why, but I REALLY wanted to start and my mom was simply taking FOREVER in Small Julie's mind. I kept calling for her to hurry up, come on, I want to read! Then I started the threats. If she didn't come in, I was going to read this book all on my own! See how she felt about that, you know? She kept saying she'd be right there, but eventually I did the 5-year-old equivalent of "Eff This!" in my head and started reading by myself, just like I'd threatened (because you always have to make good on your threats, yeah?). Very slowly, I read out loud to myself. In my head, it was kind of a "Take THAT" to my mom, to prove I was reading on my own.

I'm sure I had the basics of reading down by this point, or at least the basics of sounding out words. And I don't know how much I read, but it was at least a few pages. But this is the first time I really remember reading. And it was...basically because I was tired of my mom's excuses about doing dishes before reading to me or whatever.

I still kept reading with my mom, though. She had a good reading voice and it was a nice way to spend time together. As I've mentioned before, we even read the Harry Potter books together, the first four of them, outloud (my mom's a champ). This went on until I was 9 and my mom was pregnant. She was often too tired to read and then put me to bed. She'd fall asleep before me. She was working an office job by then and since it was a pretty new job and she was going on maternity leave less than a year after starting, she wanted to make a good impression while she was there. 

I kind of fell into a lull after that. My mom and I would read the newest Harry Potter books on our own and discuss (which is why we still have two copies of the last 3 books at my parents'). But otherwise, I didn't have much interest in reading. This wasn't the happiest time in my life. The new little brother was taking up whatever time and patience my parents' had after work. I didn't have a lot of friends. I gained a lot of weight because I no longer played baseball or had friends in the area or could go play out in the streets. Much of my time was spent online, mostly on the Nickelodeon message boards.

In the summer of 2008, my younger brother was 4 and I was asked to watch him over the summer. This wasn't my first time watching him, but he was at an age where he actually had to be WATCHED to make sure he didn't destroy things. The computer was on a different floor, so I could be online, and I couldn't watch TV in the other rooms, mostly because nothing of interest was on. So, I asked my parents to take me to the bookstore.

Oh how I read that summer. About 8 books in the Princess Diaries series, probably another 8 books in the Clique Series. Sarah Dessen. Judy Blume. Almost all contemporary, all YA or MG books. I devoured books. My parents were taking me to Barnes and Noble, literally, every weekend to stock me up for the week. I'd buy up to 5 books at a time and read almost a book a day while babysitting and putting together meals. Anything and everything. 

The reading bug didn't leave after that. Shortly after school started again, I wasn't able to get away with buying many books at a time, so I'd just try to get one or two long books. It's how I started Twilight, which pushed me into vampires (Vampire Academy and Blue Bloods). The Gemma Doyle trilogy drew me in with its gorgeous covers, which spawned a love of historical fiction and books with pretty dresses on the covers. The Luxe series was one that followed shortly after. And it kinda spiraled after that. I've never really fallen out of reading for more than a couple weeks at a time, and even then I still manage to read a book or two. And sometimes it's just a matter of not having the time/energy.

So, I'm curious, how did you start reading? And then how did you become a real reader? Was it as weird a path as it was for me? Any important people play a part?

--Julie

3 comments:

  1. I love this post! So relatable :) I remember way back when the first time I ever actually started reading a book was with the help of my sister, I just always remember being anxious to learn to read and write as a kid, and always thinking I would never be able to do it :P. I became a reader thanks to my many primary school teachers who would read good old classics to class, like The Magic Faraway Tree! How that brings back so many memories! x

    -Bee

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  2. I'm impressed with how well you remember this. I know that I learned to read in kindergarten and was a voracious reader since then but I can't remember it as vividly as you do.

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  3. I started young too. I was homeschooled through high school, and my sister and I are really close in age (a little over a year apart) so when my mom started teaching her to read, she thought why not kill two birds with one stone and teach both of us at the same time? I loved reading from the get go. My mom taught us with a super awesome phonics learning program and it made learning to read so much fun.

    Once I learned to read I immediately started reading stuff on my own. By the time I was 6 years old I was reading Nancy Drew mysteries, but my favorite books were by far The Boxcar Children. I read SO many Boxcar Children books.

    I think I grew to love reading partially because I just thought it was really fun, and also because my mom has always taught me to really value literature. She's always loved reading aloud to me and my siblings and so that early exposure to literature is probably part of why it's so near and dear to me now. :)

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