You could compare reading to a relationship. All readers know it that this isn’t some casual fling. You’re in it for the long haul. This is a lifelong affair.
It’s there for you at the end of a long day. It can make you laugh and cry.
Sometimes it’s a struggle and you have to work at it. But one thing all readers know it that this isn’t some casual fling.
But where did it start? Like a first kiss, you remember your first experience with reading forever.
And like all first kisses, it’s more complicated than that.
I attribute my love of reading to two very different instances. The first is a memory of my childhood. I’m on my bed with my brother and mom, and she’s reading to us. We are young, maybe five and seven respectively, and rituals are important to our daily routines —and more specifically — important for getting us to shut up and go to bed.
My mom is reading The Hobbit, and I’m envisioning fantastical images of food-hungry hobbits, mystical elves, journeys of good and evil. Of course, the book is a technically considered a children’s book, but I never would have been able to pick it up on my own (keep in mind that “age five” detail), and my love for that story remains vivid as ever, even as the plot itself has faded.
Perhaps I was seeking that thrill of first love, but the following years showed a lull in my reading. At school, I excelled in English, but I found myself coasting through the assigned reading and absorbing none of it. Nothing captivated me the way I remembered being captivated.
That changed in the eighth grade. I finished our spelling units for the semester earlier than expected, so my teacher called me up after class one day and told me that she wanted me to do supplemental work. As you can imagine, this induced silent mental groaning followed by utter despair on my end.
“I want you to go over to the bookshelf and pick out any book you’d like to read, and write a report on it, which can be on any topic you’d like,” she said.
It was the first time in school that someone had given me autonomy to choose my own book. I took this very seriously. I stood in front of the extraordinary ceiling-high shelves for 20 minutes. I touched the different covers and thoughtfully read each book jacket.
Finally, hesitantly, I picked up A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and placed it on my teacher’s desk. She smiled and said, “You picked a good one.”
She was right. I fell absolutely in love with Francie and the Nolan family. I related to her adolescence. I cried for her father—the first time a book caused me to do so. I was excited to go home and read. Once again, it became a ritual in my life.
It was my second instance of falling in love with reading, and though it was long, unwieldy path, the affair was solidified.
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What is the first book that made you fall in love with reading?