Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Reading-Driven Life

by April D. Boland

It is hard for me pinpoint when exactly I became a reader. Books made staged appearances throughout my life, but as far as when the fact was truly nailed down, I cannot recall.

In my early childhood, I read picture books like most other kids. There was a fair share of both Sesame Street and Bible stories, and my mother loves to tell the story of how she prompted me to 'sound out' a difficult word - 'Egypt' - and I came up with "Egg-uh-put." Books were exciting even then, like a favorite T.V. program that you can watch over and over, as many times as you like.

When I began school, my teachers told my parents that I was a good reader. This remark fed my vanity and caused me to crack open that "Dick and Jane" reader often.

To give you an idea of how much of a nerd and reading fool I was, one Christmas my parents gave me a three volume set of encyclopedias for my age level. I nearly flipped. It had information about and pictures of everything from dogs and ducks to Disney, Walt, and it was all mine.

As a preteen, my mother gave me the ever popular rite-of-passage book: Judy Blume's Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. After that, I got on a Judy Blume kick for a while. It was also a pretty profitable endeavour, considering my father gave my sister and I one dollar for each book we finished. It was like the tooth fairy, only we had control over the frequency and, consequently, our earnings. My sister read every Babysitter's Club book she could get her hands on, though she doesn't read for leisure.

I was a bit of a paradox in high school. I got very excited about summer reading lists and went to the bookstore to buy books for fun, but I was not always thrilled with having to read for English class. Very few books made an impression on me. Catcher in the Rye and Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon (which I hated at first) are a couple of the exceptions. Oddly enough, now that I am older, I go back and reread the others from that class with a heartfelt love that is nostalgic but not exactly honest.

I never thought that I would major in literature. I laughed at the notion in high school. Yet somewhere along the line, books stopped being a hobby and became an addiction. I began reading while I walked, dodging potholes and people while pitying poor Uncle Tom or admiring Thoreau's principles. Even now, I cannot bear to put books down. Trips to the library or bookstore are for me what toy store excursions are for children. I worry about and rejoice over characters as if they were friends. And in a sense, they are.


Amanda said...

The story of your reading-driven life is also the story of mine. The comments on my preschool "report card" always said "Amanda does not socialize enough, she is always in the Book Nook." I was socializing with book characters, those other silly 4 year olds couldn't even read yet. I loved the Babysitter's Club and Judy Blume when I was younger, as well as Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the Sweet Valley High series. I didn't always read the best of literature, but I read constantly. I also completely understand what you mean when you say that a library or a bookstore is a book lover's toy store. I could spend hours in there simply browsing, taking it all in. I'm with you on it all!

April Boland said...

That's awesome; you should make a t-shirt that says "Amanda does not socialize enough, she is always in the Book Nook."