Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How I Fell In Love with Reading

My friend, author/illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba, recently asked me if I could remember the book or story that made me fall in love with reading.

A book on ancient sculpture started it all for me.  
I had to tell her the truth. No, I did not. 

I do remember, however, the moment I fell in love with the subject that would fascinate me for most of my life—the ancient world. And, oddly enough, the love affair began with a series of images, not words.

While in a public library at age 10 or 11 or so, I came across a book on classical statues. Had someone left the oversized book on the table? Had a librarian put the book into my hands? I can’t recall.  But I do remember absolutely losing my breath with awe at the sumptuous photographs.

The beauty, the symmetry, the grace, the realism—there was no other way of describing my response to the ancient artwork but to say that I’d been twitterpatted, gobsmacked and verklempt all at once.

Who were these people that created such beauty? What were their lives like? What kind of world did they live in? How was it possible that artwork they carved thousands of years ago still had the power to move me so deeply?

That’s the thing about books. We never know what will entrance a child. It may be a story about dinosaurs, gladiators or submarines. Or maybe a book on bugs, ballet or planets. It could be the tale of a boy digging endlessly in the desert (Holes) or a girl learning to fly a biological warship in the shape of a giant whale (Leviathan).

The nature of falling in love is that it’s often unpredictable and unexpected. Falling in love with reading is like having a passionate affair that never gets old or boring.  Until the day we die, we can lose ourselves in stories that fascinate, shock, entrance, or inspire us to do good in the world.

Elizabeth is sharing her own story of falling in love with books this Friday (http://dulemba.blogspot.com) as part of the 2011 “Share A Story, Shape a Future” literacy campaign (http://www.share-a-story-shape-a-future.net).  

Check it out. And then let me know—what story or book did you first fall in love with?


Patricia Cruzan said...

I remember checking out books from the church library as a young child. Later, I worked in the children's section of a library. As an adult, I enjoyed reading books to elementary children.
There can never be too many books around. They are fascinating or entertaining. Or perhaps both.

Cathy C. Hall said...

I fell in love with reading when I was about 5, with a Golden Book called "A Pickle for a Nickel." It was a funny story, starring a shy, little kid. Kinda like me.

Isn't that what we really fall in love with in a book? The part that calls to us and says, "Hey! I'm like that, too!"

Um, I'm not sure what that says about YOU, Vicky, and that whole ancient thing. :-)

Unknown said...

I loved learning to read "Fun with Dick and Jane" in kindergarten.

But the first book I remember my mom reading to me was the Golden Book, "The Little Engine that Could." "I think I can, I think I can. I know I can. I know I can."

Oh, and "The Gingerbread Man" was another one I remember.

Karen Strong said...

Love when you said this: "Falling in love with reading is like having a passionate affair that never gets old or boring."

I grew up in the library and this is also where I fell in love with books.

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

I agree, Patricia! There can never be enough books. (We will address my book addiction at another time...)

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Cathy, really--"A Pickle for a Nickle?" Sounds cute but still. A pickle. Don't ask what my pick said about me, girlfriend! Yours is way better (for joke-making anyway!).

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Wow, Irishima, you have a great memory. I don't remember books from when I was very young. I hope my kids do, tho, because I certainly read to them enough!

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Thanks, Karen! Libraries rock!

sally said...

I fell in love with reading on Treasure Island when I was eight--the summer I turned nine. I had liked to read before that, but the real love affair began when I set off for dangerous adventure with Jim Hawkins.

Great story about the sculpture setting you off. I was dragged through museums in Egypt and Europe when I was six and I wish, wish, wish I'd appreciated them more. I'd love to go back now that I'm older and, I hope, wiser. But at six, I was more interested in the people we met than the art.