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 Rebecca from The Book Lady’s Blog, who I’ve had a blogger crush on basically since I started. (Who can resist someone who talks about panty-worthy authors?) 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”?
My earliest book memory is of “reading” Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop. I say “reading” because, while I thought I was reading it aloud to my parents, I had actually just memorized the words and was repeating them. Mom figured this out when I started reciting lines on the wrong pages. Dead give-away, right? I also remember my dad reading The Hobbit to me as a bedtime story, one chapter at a time, complete with a voice for each character and performances of the songs. Books were always a part of our home, and my parents struck a great balance of encouraging me to read without forcing it on me. We made weekly trips to the library, read together every night at bedtime, and had fun stocking up on books before vacations. Reading was fun, and I loved doing it. Everyone in my family read, but no one was as a big a reader as I was (or am). Enjoying and valuing books was just another part of having a well-rounded life.
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”?
I’ve always been a reader and have always thought of myself as such. English was ALWAYS my favorite class (even in eighth grade, when I had the teacher from hell, who did nothing but diagram sentences), and I think my fabulous English teachers have a lot to do with the fact that I ended up being a literary blogger—they taught me to enjoy writing about books as much as reading them, to think critically about what I read, and to back up my thoughts about books with textual support. I majored in psychology and minored in English in college and have often (OFTEN!) thought I should have done it the other way around.
Did you have any interesting reading habits when you were growing up? Do you still have them now?
I’ve always loved reading in the tub, but I don’t think that’s all that unique or interesting, though now I get to do it in the antique clawfoot tub that came with our house. My parents talked me into sitting through church by allowing me to hide books inside hymnals, so I suppose that’s something. And, of course, I did the hide-under-the-cover-with-a-flashlight thing, but who didn’t? Now, my reading habits are pretty standard: I curl up on the couch, or soak up rays on the back porch, or read in bed in the evenings, and, I never leave the house without a book, just in case I get caught standing in line or sitting in a waiting room.
Where was your favourite spot to read as a kid? Are there any books you distinctly remember from your childhood? Why?
I’ve never really had a favorite reading spot…I guess I’ve always felt like the world is my reading room, and wherever I can sit down for a few minutes is good enough for me.
The book from my childhood that left the biggest mark on me was Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which was the first book that really blew my mind and changed the way I saw the world (and the way I thought about books…this book did things that no book I had read before did) It was the first book I read that was about something bigger than just a story. And I’d be remiss to leave out Judy Blume. I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret at least a dozen times and spent years (literally, years!) hoping to someday have breasts the size of tennis balls.
How have your reading tastes developed from childhood until now? What were the phases that you went through along the way?
I went through the typical reading phases for a child of the 80s: Goosebumps, The Babysitters Club, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books. I read anything I could get my hands on (including the back of a cereal box, if that was the only thing nearby), and then, all of a sudden, I started reading adult books.
I’ve always liked books that ask big questions, and that has led to rather eclectic reading taste, as I alternate between literary fiction and narrative nonfiction that covers a wide variety of topics. I don’t know if young adult books weren’t as big when I was growing up, or if I just didn’t know about them, but I basically skipped YA altogether and went from children’s books to adult fiction, which meant that, for a while, I read a lot of things I didn’t quite understand (Mom and Dad are pretty liberal and allowed me to read whatever I wanted, trusting that I would ask questions when I needed to) and a few things I should have waited on (The Shining is not the best idea for a twelve-year-old), but it also meant that reading was always an adventure and an opportunity to learn something, and that mindset has shaped the way I read as an adult.
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 kids of my own, but I do have five nieces and three nephews, and you better believe it’s my mission to teach them to love books. I think the key is to make reading fun. Kids have tons of choices for entertainment, so it’s important to show them that reading is exciting and more satisfying than, say, TV and video games. It’s also important to meet kids where they are. Let them read whatever they’re interested in, and get interested in it yourself, rather than forcing them to read the books you think they should be reading. And you won’t get anywhere without setting a good example—kids need to see the adults they look up to reading and enjoying books.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Rebecca 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!