I get this question a lot less frequently than I do this one about crochet–but it’s an important one for me, and lately I’ve been thinking about it quite a lot. I honestly can’t remember a single aha! moment as a child when I discovered my love for books and reading. Instead, I remember the books which moved me, opened my eyes, and made me wonder.
I was a voracious reader as a kid–annoyingly so to my family. I read at the dinner table, in the bathtub, everywhere. My parents, though of course thrilled that I was a reader, would get understandably frustrated when I sat down to dinner with a book in front of my face. To make matters worse, I have a strangely intense focus when it comes to reading, or even watching a good TV show or movie–I get so drawn into the story, I simply do not hear the people around me, even if they’re saying my name. It takes serious concentration on my part to break away from a good story, a trait which has caused me some grief. The people around me often think I’m ignoring them when in fact I didn’t even register that they were speaking to me in the first place. Anyway, back to me reading.
My elementary school had a Talented and Gifted program (TAG) which both my older brother and I were a part of. When my brother was in the sixth grade, his TAG class read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and the following year my third-grade-self found it in the school library and decided that I ought to read it, as well. I pulled it off the shelf and took it to the librarian to check out. She peered over her glasses, glancing from the book cover to me.
“This book isn’t for third graders.”
I, being the awkwardly shy little person I was, said nothing.
“You probably won’t understand it.”
“Are you sure you want to check it out?”
And so began my love affair with Madeleine L’Engle’s books (as well as my long-standing distrust of school librarians).
I remember this incident so vividly, perhaps because of my own persistence in the matter. I really was an awkwardly shy kid, always going along with whatever was asked of me, and I think this was one of the first times I stood up and defied an adult–even in my own silent little way. And when I read A Wrinkle in Time and not only understood, but loved it, I felt vindicated in my defiance of the librarian’s recommendation.
So, I was clearly a reader. But writing? I do remember the first moment I discovered that gift and was encouraged in it. It was in TAG again, and once again, in the third grade. Mrs. Watson showed us a painting and asked us to write a paragraph describing it. The painting itself was fairly obscure, if I remember right–there was a lot of blue, and what looked like a light shining through mist. So I named it “A Misty Morning” and wrote about the little house with a single light on which I imagined existed behind all that blue fog. When I received my graded paper back, Mrs. Watson’s comments were glowing. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I do remember that she was enthusiastic in her praise and encouragement–and that I realized, in reading her comments, my love of writing.
The moral of this story, I suppose, is in how we as parents, educators, and role models respond to young people when it comes to reading and writing. If I had let the librarian talk me out of reading that particular book, or if Mrs. Watson had been less encouraging of my work, my life might have followed quite a different path.