Reading Roots: Ash from English Major Junk Food

July 6, 2010

Posted weekly on Tuesdays, Reading Roots features a variety of book bloggers talking about their early reading influences and experiences, letting us catch a glimpse of the “roots” that each person has built upon in forming their identity as “a reader”.

Today, I’m interviewing Ash from English Major Junk Food. Let’s explore her reading roots!

What is your earliest memory involving books or reading? How were books, reading, and literacy approached in your childhood home? Were your parents or other family members “readers”?

When I was a kid I went to my grandparent’s house every day before and after school before my parents came to pick me up. When I was in preschool I couldn’t wait to learn how to read so my grandma taught me how. She read Little Red Riding Hood to me and then I would try to read it to her. We sat in this old blue recliner in her living room and finally I figured out how to read the book. After the I was unstoppable. I started to read to my grandma before and after school and eventually I would read her the newspaper or chapters from whatever book I was reading.

Did you enjoy language arts/English classes as a kid, or were you more of a reluctant reader? When did you first consider yourself “a reader”?

English has always been my best subject, I’m an English major after all! I was not reluctant at all, as I said I couldn’t wait. I was reading well before the rest of my age group. I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself anything but a reader, it was just something inherent in me. What is strange though is my parents don’t read that much. My dad reads the newspaper and my mom read spirituality books but neither of them is an avid reader. My mom always did buy me books and read to me growing up though so she instilled in me early on an importance of reading. That being said, as much as I love being an English major it is not as easy as I thought it was going to be. It’s hard when something comes so easily to you your whole life and you always get A’s, and then you come into the major and realize that everyone is just as good as you so the bar is going to be raised a little bit more. I still do well in my classes though.

Did you have any interesting reading habits when you were growing up? Do you still have them now?

I started out really interested in historical fiction. I loved the American Girls books and the Royal Diaries series. Wednesdays were early outs for me in elementary school so I went the library with my grandma on those afternoons and I basically started on one end of the shelves in the children’s section and moved to the other. The library in my town was pretty small and I think I read just about every book they had. I still read historical fiction now, but in high school I started reading a lot of creative nonfiction (fueled mostly by a love of VH1 that led me to Chuck Klosterman) and now I read quite a bit of that. Meg Cabot is an author I have loved for a long time, I started reading her books when I was 13 and seven years later I still enjoy them.

Where was your favourite spot to read as a kid? Are there any books you distinctly remember from your childhood? Why?

I’ve always read in bed before going to sleep. Usually I’ll read in bed even if I’m not about ready to go to sleep. I remember discovering Harry Potter in sixth grade. I read the first four books all in a row before the fifth one came out. I would come home after school and read until dinner time, then I’d eat dinner quick and read until bed. That was also when I discovered that most of my homework assignments could be finished at breakfast before I went to school which started a habit that only got worse in high school (oops!). Harry Potter was amazing because it encompassed everything I wanted my life to be like and stuck it all in one book series. Another book I remember vividly is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I read this book in sixth grade so I was really a little young for it considering it deals with a rape, but the book at a huge effect on me. I remember being shocked that things like that actually happened and could happen to people around me.

How have your reading tastes developed from childhood until now? What were the phases that you went through along the way?

As I said I read historical fiction as a kid and moved more into creative nonfiction in high school. Now I read a little bit of everything. In high school and early in college I definitely felt like it was important to read “classic” books to get yourself some street cred. It wasn’t okay to be seen reading The Princess Diaries or something like that. I actually remember feeling guilty reading young adult books in my later years of high school. Now, honestly, I just don’t care anymore. I’ll read in public with a stack of books that include Sylvia Plath, Candace Bushnell, Meg Cabot, Chuck Klosterman, and Charlotte Bronte. My reading tastes vary based on what kind of book I need at the time. Like during finals week I’m not going to take on Virginia Woolf, it’s just not going to happen. But a book from The Luxe series? Yeah I can probably handle that. My tastes honestly haven’t changed that much over the years. I love anything historical, creative nonfiction, literary fiction, and anything dealing with pop culture. But while my tastes haven’t changed the way I look at reading in my life has definitely changed. I’ve realized reading isn’t something I do to look cool to other people, it’s something I do to make myself happy.

Bonus Literacy Question: If you have children, how did you encourage them (or how are you encouraging them) to become readers? If you do not have children of your own, what do you think is the most important thing to focus on in order to promote reading in the coming generations?

I don’t have children but I’ve worked as a children’s reading tutor so I’m answering this question in that mindset. I think that a lot of kids look at reading as something that is not important, and I honestly think this is something that is being put into their minds. Everyone is now focusing on health to fight childhood obesity, or computer literacy, or environmental science because we need to work on all of these things in our world. But the truth is you can’t do any of those things until you learn how to read and that is what I always stressed with my kids. Reading opens so many doors for you. In it’s simplest form it allows you to function in every day life by giving you the ability to read signs, emails, commercials, and so and so forth. Beyond that, reading can take you to another world. Like Harry Potter or Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, it can be an escape. Treat reading like a video game, television show, or computer game and kids will look at it in a completely different way.

I hope you enjoyed learning about Ash as much as I did! If you haven’t read her blog before, I suggest that you go take a look.

See you next week for a look into the “roots” of another fantastic blogger!

9 Comments

  • Iris July 6, 2010 at 4:47 am

    I didn’t know you were around my age Ash, although I guess I should’ve figured that out since you’re an English Major.

    • Ash July 6, 2010 at 2:59 pm

      Haha, I guess I remain a mysterious college blogger.

  • Amy July 6, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Another new blog for me to follow! I love this series Carina, especially because it brings so many new bloggers to my attention!

    • Carina July 6, 2010 at 12:10 pm

      Yay! I really like getting to interview people who are maybe a little more new or haven’t been interviewed before, they get so excited!

      • Amy July 6, 2010 at 12:16 pm

        Like me 😀 I did get quite excited! haha

  • erisian23 July 6, 2010 at 11:22 am

    thanks for the interview Ash!

    kudos on the open reading in public. i have found that people who give you crap over a title/author are typically, non-readers (who will never understand) or lit-snobs (who will never understand)

    in other words, you can not win, so why play the game 🙂

    ~~

    you make me feel old !!

    • Carina July 6, 2010 at 12:16 pm

      I read a post on someone else’s blog yesterday about never apologizing for what you’re reading in public, and it talked about a girl she met in a waiting room who was embarrassed that the last book she had finished was a YA book … and it ended up with her giving the details to a third woman in the waiting room to buy for her grandkid! People should read whatever makes them happy, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I remember, once, I was reading a book called The Ethical Slut on the bus, and this person across from me just kept smirking. It was a little nerve-wracking, but it made me think, why should I change my reading habits because of other people?

      • Ash July 6, 2010 at 2:58 pm

        I totally agree with both of you. I realized this past year that a lot of those people who are doing the judging read a whole lot less than I do. You can be a lit snob, but do you really have any room to talk when you read a couple books a year?

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