I grew up in a house full of books. The den had floor to ceiling bookcases on two walls, jammed packed with books. The hall had cabinets full of yet more books, and so that we never ran short of reading material my mother took us to the library every two weeks. We came home laden with books. I can’t count the times that I entered my parents’ bedroom to find them side by side in bed, both with books in their hands. I come from a large family, and some of my happiest memories involve all of us children sprawled out in the living room while my mother read us a story. My mother taught me to read for myself before I started kindergarten. Because of my parents, my mother especially, books were, and still are, magical things in which you can travel to any land and have all sorts of adventures.
My sister who is ten years older than me furthered my love of stories. She told me fairy tales as bedtime stories–“Midas and his Golden Touch,” “Three Little Men in the Woods,” and my favorite “The Princess and the Glass Hill.” Being surrounded with stories, I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer, and it was for my sister that I wrote my first one, which involved the Man from Mars coming to earth to try a peach. She loved the story, or at least convinced me that she did, and encouraged me to write more. For her, I wrote dozens of adventures involving this Man from Mars. As I grew, my sister continued to be my writing mentor and cheerleader. Throughout high school, I took my stories to her. She’d read them and gave me guidance on how to improve them.
Of course, I learned that making a living as a writer is extremely difficult, and it was my father that helped me find a career path that indulged my love of books and would ultimately give me time to write them. On his advice, I pursed a bachelor’s and, ultimately, a PhD in literature. For homework, I got to read books that covered the history of much of the world, and in class, we talked about these books. I could imagine no better career than getting paid to talk to students about books. I didn’t think about the grading papers part of the job at the time, but even with this inconvenience, I can’t imagine a job, with the exception of being a full time writer, I’d like more than teaching others my love of books.
When my son was born, it was only natural that I read to him. I started doing so when he was an infant in my arms and could understand nothing more than the soothing sound of his mother’s voice. As he grew older, he learned the one sure fire way to get mom’s attention was to ask me to read to him. I almost never said no to this request because I loved it as much as he did. We graduated quickly from picture books into chapter books. We used the magical tree house to travel throughout time together, morphed into various animals with the animoprhs, and spend a magically long time at Hogwarts. I dreaded the day when he would no longer want me to read to him, but that day was long in coming. I began to read my own stories to him, and when he reached high school, we traded Harry Potter for Harry Dresden. Although the frequency of our readings decreased over time, it wasn’t until he left for college that they stopped completely.
Books, enjoyed by myself and with others, have been such a fundamental part of my life that I have difficulty understanding someone who doesn’t like to read. It’s almost as bizarre as someone saying they don’t like to eat. In writing my own books, I hope to give others some of the joy that other authors have given me. I can imagine no greater gift to the world than a story well told.
Who taught you to love books? Comment below.