Reading: A Passionate Love Affair

I've been inspired by the amazing Jennifer LaGarde who has written such brilliant post about the important people and pivotal moments in your past that made you a lifelong reader.  Jennifer's post is evocative, thought-provoking, and inspiring! It was so good I wrote a flippin novel of a comment that will make up much of this posting!
Her well written words caused me to smile and fondly recall those individuals, pivot points, and circumstances that made me into a reader. And it wasn't a book report, diorama, or a standardized text passage that did it. Shocker.

Before writing this part, I called my Mom to "fact check" my memory of my pivotal reading moments and spent a great 45 min recalling both of our reader love stories. Which turned out to be - surprisingly similar!
Narnia by Candlelight
One of my earliest happy reading memories was in Miss Cooper's second grade class at Capitol Christian Academy. Every day after lunch, Miss Cooper would let us put our heads down on our desks, she'd dim the overhead lights, and she would light this little brass Swedish candle chime thingy that would rotate around dreamily and make a lovely tinkling sound.  Then she would read aloud in her clear sweet voice with all the inflections,  a chapter or two of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was magical. I was entranced.  My Mom would read the next chapter to me that night before bed in her beautiful voice, but I never minded the repeats the next day. It was wonderful!

Fast forward a couple years and grades to a rainy summer week at the beach. We were renting a "vintage" (read here cheap with no TV!) cottage at the Ocean City, Maryland beach around 1974.  Growing up, Mom said I could read but I didn't really LIKE to read. At the time, Mom was an English teacher at Bowie Senior High School and I asked her today if in those early years if it bothered her at all or if I was disappointment to her. She said nope, she was just waiting. She's a patient woman, my Mom!

Public Library Visits
Mom took my brother and me religiously to the Bowie Public Library every other week to check out tote bags of books.  But until that rainy summer week, she said I would usually check out non fiction books about How to be a Stewardess or crafting books and I would mostly just look at the pictures. 

Nancy Drew Saved Me
That week, with the rain pouring and no TV to entertain, Mom took us to a bookstore at the Salisbury mall and I got my first 2 Nancy Drew books. Mom said it was the first fiction book I read, read, and read, and didn't put down until I finished it and asked for more.  I was going into the 4th grade and I was in LOVE!
I read Nancy Drew books non-stop for a year - we would go to the Riverdale Used Book shop where you could trade in books for other books and I started collecting Nancy Drew books from the 30's, 40's, 50's...every decade - each were a little different and fascinating! 
My Mom shared with me today that she also read Nancy Drew books from the library on the Elmendorf Air Force Base library in Anchorage, Alaska growing up after WWII! And that it wasn't until Nancy that she became a lifelong reader! No wonder she nudged me in that direction!
After Nancy Drew I started branching out to other books like the Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, Gothic Novels, Harlequin Romances, Vampire books, The Hobbit, The Cliffs of Night, A Wrinkle in Time, Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Really, from then on I was omnivorous. I do remember that in 5th grade I was sent to the Principal's office at my fundamental Christian private school for bringing in the book Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. What the what!? Mom sent me to public school the next year! LOL

Library Helper
In 6th grade - my first year in public school, I was a Library Media helper for Ms. Wildburger....she the School Librarian and was also my TAG teacher who just, well.. Got. Me. In fact, when I "graduated" from Elem she gave me an inscribed paperback book Listen for the Whisperer by Phyllis A. Whitney. I still have that book! It's in my office at school. I now routinely give kids ARC or paperback books and I always write something personal for that kid to remember me by. You never know, they may just keep it.

Gone With the Wind Fabulous
During the blizzard of 1979 we were stuck home for a week and I ran out of books. (Gasp!) The picture at the very top of the post shows me curled up sitting on the heating vent with Grandma's afgan reading The Laird of Tariff Hall well-worn Gothic paperpback. After that, I guess I was whining about nothing to read so my Mom gave me her Gone With the Wind paperback - that shut me up! I don't know if it was totally appropriate for a 14 year old to read that - but it kept me quiet for many many days! By the by? If you haven't read the book - it's quite juicy!

Stand Behind Scary Books
Around this time I also read Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice, some strange vampire book called Lupe that disturbed me a bit! I read Stephen King's It, and Tommyknockers.  I also tried to read Stephen King's The Stand but I quit it after the NYC tunnel scene. WAY too scary! (I finally read ALL of The Stand last summer & loved it!)  See kiddos? Sometimes you're not ready for a book, but the book will always be there waiting for you! 
Time and Again
My favourite book off ALL time (Ok, maybe until Harry Potter) was a book I was Jack Finney's Time and Again which I read in HS for fun. I LOVE this book! It's a time travel book that's illustrated with historic photographs and etchings. It's surprising, delightful, suspenseful, heart-pounding, romantic, exciting, and poignant. I was very social in High School, Studio Art, a Theatre Gleek, yearbook editor, part time job at Kemp Mill Records, the 80's punk rock scene, and boys....oh the boys!  But I still found time to read.  I was an English Lit major in college and after a couple careers in PR and advertising I realized my heart and soul were not being filled and I belonged in a school library for the rest of my life. This is the short version. 

Then came Harry.
I've blogged about this before. My love for the Harry Potter series. In 1997 I ordered from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and from then on - every year eagerly I pre-ordered from Amazon each new release, and I would be on tenterhooks for the next book. THAT, as a grownup, changed my reading life! It was the first time that I felt like I was in a reading community about a series. And what was even more exciting? I was sharing it with my students!  I wouldn't let my teachers check out the new books (they were saved just for the kiddos!)- but I would let them borrow my personal copy.  I even made a special sticker made on Print Shop Deluxe to put on each volume so it wouldn't accidentally be shelved. 

What's YOUR Story?
Now that I ponder it, I think we all should write a blog post about our passionate reading love affair moments! Yes! I think, as librarians, we should share that which made us want to BE a librarian and a life-long reader. I guarantee you, it was NOT because we were induced to, or as Jennifer said by any "points or other incentives."

We should do this to both honor those people who helped shape us, to commemorate it for ourselves and our family, and to remind the public that readers are not bought. They are not bribed. They are not coerced. They are saved. 
I would call it mix between an almost evangelical conversion and falling in love. I've been in love many times in my life. They come, they go, they get tossed aside. But my love for reading has stayed steadfast and true.

Reading Addictions
The way I read may have changed - but the magic in the words off the "page" or the tablet still delights and maintains me. I feel panicky if I don't have a book nearby. That is lifelong passion. That is lifelong devotion. That's a lifelong addiction. Call it what you will. That, is what we each try to inspire in each kiddo we meet. No small task but we're librarians. That's what we do.

So, if you haven't already - you gotta read Learning To Read Alone Is Not Enough. Your Students Need A Reading Champion. You're welcome.

Your Turn! 

I don't write as well as Jennifer. I'm rambling and all over the place (and I know I have lots of parenthetical asides, this one!) But I really hope we (all of us who have had a lifelong love affair with reading) we all should try and write down our earliest magical reading moments. I'm sure yours will be better than mine & I can't wait to read it! Comment, Tweet, share shamelessly my friends!

Resources & Links:

Do you remember the moment that you fell in love with reading?


  1. Challenge accepted:

  2. Thanks for the wonderful story and inspiration. I took up the challenge:

  3. OMG! Gwyneth thank you for the opportunity to blog about my book lovelife. I forgot how big a role books and reading were to my life when I was younger. Revisiting some of these memories was hard, but they also made me think of my girlfriends from years ago and the great kids were all were together. Take a look...

  4. Thanks for the inspiration! I was encouraged to think about what made me a reader.
    Now I have quite a few books I'd like to read again!

  5. Thank You For wonderful Story and inspiration.


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